Friday 18th September 2015
Yorkshire Country Cricket Club, Leeds
There’s something unnerving about reviewing a band that’s older than you are. It feels like writing a biography about someone you’ve only known for a few weeks, aware of the fact that their lifelong friends are going to read it. When it comes to Madness, the relationship between the band and the fans does feel like friendship. They’ve come a long way together since the 70s, and stayed loyal to one another throughout. Headingley is overrun by trilby-wearing fans, a welcome change to the usual get-ups sported by Otley Runs.
I’ve come to see Madness tonight with my Mum and Dad – our first gig together since Oasis in 2005. The Grandslam Madness tour has seen the band perform at grassy arenas up and down the country through the summer. Tonight, Yorkshire County Cricket Club is playing host to the event. Madness chose their venues carefully – opting for grass to create a festival atmosphere. The perfectly manicured cricket pitch is a far cry from the ankle-deep quagmire at Glastonbury, but the open air and the space to dance means that everyone is in high spirits.
Before the band take to the stage we’re treated to a selection of silly and comical video clips on the big screens. They are nonsensical, much like many Madness songs and music videos. When the band takes to the stage, the crowd welcomes them back to Leeds with fervour, and they seem just as pleased to be here. Dressed in their trademark suits, trilbies, sunglasses, and a rogue fez, Madness have a singular roguish charm that hasn’t aged a bit.
Launching straight into their set, we’re treated to a rasping baritone sax and a deep bass that can be felt deep inside our lungs. The band are seamless and appear to think as one – freestyling as and when they please and stretching out crescendos and choruses to the delight of the crowd. A band this well-established has a repertoire so well-known that every single song is a further delight. From Wings of a Dove to Lovestruck, from It Must Be Love to My Girl, the crowd accompanies the lyrics as one.
The group dance in their characteristic style, twisting like a marching band with every beat. A bright and brilliant light show accompanies the band as they play, spelling out their name dazzlingly along the back of the stage – as if they could be anybody else. There is a short pause for breath in which that audience takes up the slack – singing along in unison to Bon Jovi’s Livin on a Prayer – before they’re straight back into it. Their set comes to a blissful climax with a rendition of the nostalgic Baggy Trousers, in which friends and family of all ages storm the stage to join in the party.
Madness’ light-hearted demeanour, songs that resonate with everyday people, and lead singer Suggs’ uncanny ability to make every person in the crowd feel as if he’s talking directly to them - gives the impression not that we’re stood in a throng thousands strong on a hallowed, world-famous cricket ground, but that we’re watching our friends’ band play at the local, accompanied by our best mates.
Words by Olivia Lazenby
Photos courtesy of Tony Stott