Saturday, June 25, 2005
The Forest People
The journey down the A1 took 5 hours, but myself and Colin Ross made our own entertainment in the form of an advance copy of the latest Madness album, due out in the shops next month.
We left a gloriously sunny Edinburgh and arrived just outside Mansfield in the spitting rain. Thoughts of the images beamed from Glastonbury yesterday sprang to mind and we began to wonder if we had come prepared well enough for the gig.
As it turned out the weather cleared warm and humid. This meant our stay in the car park was made all the more pleasant as a few of our friends turned up: Tony and Sarah Elliott, Chiggsy and Lewis and a few others. The two crates of beer we had brought with us went down well and we had a mini-party in the car park listening to Madness on the CD in the van over the sound of the support bands further inside the forest.
At around half past eight we made our way into the venue, down the slopes and through the trees and into the clearing where the stage had been erected along with an array of white tents. Most of them were beer and food tents and the merchandise stall was so pathetically small it wasn't even worth looking at.
We made our way through the crowd just before nine, avoiding the campers and people picnicking out of hampers and with glasses of wine and at one point I really had to question if this was a Madness concert or a concerto by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Though it did reinforce the wide demographic that Madness hold over music loving people of this great land.
The thick trees of Sherwood Forest suddenly came alive to the infamous track of its beloved hero, Robin Hood.
"Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Riding through the glen,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
With his band of men,
Feared by the bad, loved by the good,
Robin Hood! Robin Hood! Robin Hood!"
Then a sullen silence fell over the trees. Darkness fell. All went quiet apart from the buzz of excitement from several thousand Madness fans.
A solitary light shone onto the stage and seven of Robin Hood's men walked on and brought the crowd to life.
The crowd settled, and then in trademark power of volume and passion, Mr. Chas Smash sent birds scattering and trees swaying with the immortal lyrics:
"Hey you! Don't watch that watch this,
This is the heavy heavy monster sound,
The nuttiest sound around.
So if you've come in off the street,
And you're beginning to feel the heat,
Well listen Buster, you better start to move your feet,
To the rockingest,
One Step Beyond!"
And we were off. Madness worked the crowd up into a frenzy, then lowered them with classics such as The Prince, Embarrassment, My Girl, The Sun and the Rain and Wings of a Dove. Then they dropped the tempo with a superb version of Grey Day, One Better Day and Take it or Leave It. They came to a climax with Baggy Trousers before encoring with Swan Lake, Madness and Night Boat to Cairo.
If there's one thing you can always rely on with Madness is that they always send everyone home happy. There's something for everyone and with a back-catalogue of 23 top ten hits and another fifty stomping classics to choose from, it really is no wonder they are still packing out venues around the world.
Tonight's gig saw the finale of Madness' summer tour in association with the Forestry Commission. Shortly, they will be touring France and Holland as well as more gigs in London, and this, in their 26th year, proves they are as strong as ever.
Stand back Coldplay and Oasis, you may play good music and know about rock and roll, but when it comes to squeezing every last drop out of a crowd, bonding with them and creating an atmosphere of happiness and delight, there really is no other alternative. Nobody has ever been to a Madness concert and not been able to stand still. Fact.
You don't even have to be a fan to have a damn good night's fun and entertainment. As Suggs welcomed everyone into his fold, nobody was left in no doubt that Madness really are one of the best live acts around in this era of processed music and dubbed miming.
Madness new single Shame and Scandal is out on Monday 14th July, and their new album The Dangermen Sessions, Volume 1 on August 1st.
Pre-order them here:
The rest of the beer was finished as the car park slowly emptied and the troops of Doc Martin's and weary nutters and nuttettes left for home. Soon the forest was deserted all except for one blue van and two Scottish die-hards.
Sleep was hard to come by due to the sudden drop in temperature in the forest as well as the fact I had to lie across the front seat of the van, which included gear stick and seat-belt clips. Eventually, I think I managed a couple of hours.