REVIEW: Marvellous Madness turn Franklin's Gardens into a House Of Fun!
Madness turned Franklin's Gardens into one big House Of Fun on Friday night.
The British ska and pop legends were the headline act on a beautiful summer's evening in Northampton's Jimmy's End, and they were in fantastic form.
From the moment they kicked off the show with One Step Beyond, they had the huge crowd in the palm of their hands, and they made sure they stayed there for the whole night.
By the end of the show, the Gardens was a heaving mass of people dancing, with everybody getting involved - including all those with seats in the stands.
The Camden Nutty Boys clearly have a large and very loyal fanbase, something they have earned over 40 years in the music business, and that was highlighed by the sea of Fez hats being worn by men, women and children of all ages.
The only time you normally see a Fez at Franklin's Gardens is when Saints' rugby rivals Saracens are in town, but there were a lot more of them on show for Madness and a sight to see they were too.
Frontman Suggs was on great form, and he drove the show along with saxophonist Lee Thompson.
The pair of them were the up front visual presence, with the rest of the six-piece band - Chris Foreman (guitar), Mike Barson (keys), Dan 'Woody' Woodgate (drums) and Mark Bedford (bass) - going about their business and producing the brilliant musical goods.
The band, who were making their first return to Northampton since playing at the County Ground six years ago, were also joined by a three-piece brass section and percussionist, and the performance was top notch from everybody.
Then of course there is the real star of any Madness show, the songs...
Regarded as one of the best British singles bands of all time, Suggs & Co have a hit-laden back catalogue to pick from, and they unleashed some crackers here.
There were early plays for Embarrassment, The Prince, My Girl and The Sun And The Rain, with a mid-section of Wings Of A Dove, Driving In My Car, the brilliant Bed & Breakfast Man and Shut Up.
Although the big hits may have dried up in recent years, Madness are still very much a creative force, so there were airings of newer material from recent albums too, such as NW5, My Girl 2 and Mr Apples, and they are all good songs - but you had the feeling the band were just gearing up for a big finish.
And boy, did they provide it!
From the moment they played the opening bars of their only number one single, House Of Fun, the Gardens was rocking.
They followed that up with the fantastic Baggy Trousers - taking most of the crowd on a trip down memory lane to their school disco days - before the mass singalongs of Our House and set closer It Must Be Love.
Was there an encore? Of course there was... and it was a treat for the old-school fans of the band, as they played the song Madness, and then finished things off with a storming Nightboat To Cairo - both tracks from their 1979 debut album, One Step Beyond.
It was a rousing finish to a great show from a great band who are deservedly regarded as national treasures.
It would have been Madness not to go and watch them on my own doorstep, and I'm so glad I did, because they are a feelgood band that just makes you want to dance, and makes you smile.
A cracking gig.
Early arrivals at the Gardens had the extra treat of a 45-minute set from The Lightning Seeds.
Ian Broudie may not have racked up quite as many hit singles as Madness in his time, but he is not far behind, and their warm-up set was excellent as well.
They kicked off with the superb Sense, and rattled through some belters including Lucky You, Marvellous, Sugar Coated Iceberg, Pure and the stone cold classic Life Of Reilly.
So overall, it really was a night of great live music, with hit after hit coming at you, and on the whole, the venue was very good as well.
You had to show patience getting in as queues were long due to the necessary security checks, but once inside it was well organised, with plenty of outlets available for drink and food.
A good job all round!
Madness set: One Step Beyond; Embarassment; The Prince; NW5; My Girl; My Girl 2; The Sun & The Rain; Bullingdon Boys; Wings Of A Dove; Driving In My Car; One Better Day; Bed & Breakfast Man; In My Street; Shut Up; Mr Apples; House Of Fun; Baggy Trousers; Our House; It Must Be Love. Encore: Madness; Nightboat To Cairo
Lightning Seeds set: Sense; Change; Lucky You; You Showed Me; Perfect; ??; Ready Or Not; Marvellous; Sugar Coated Iceberg; Life Of Reilly; Pure.