Madness play Sandown Park, Surrey.
As the self-proclaimed ‘bunch of Herberts from north London’ step on stage in the blistering summer evening heat at Sandown, the mixed crowd of seasoned ‘madheads’ and regular racegoers know they are in for something special. Immaculately dressed as always, Suggs and co. serve up hit after hit, millennial staff behind the many bars and food stands repeatedly exclaiming with excitement ‘oh I didn’t know this song was by Madness!’ Opening with One Step Beyond immediately followed by Embarrassment, Madness seem to have cemented their place in the echelon of bands that seemingly everyone knows without even knowing that they know.
Punctuating the jovial two-tone pop we all know Madness so well for are some rather dark, poignant musings on the state of the world today from Suggs, as though a little pained by the coincidence that they play on the same day Boris becomes Prime Minister. Introducing the aptly-named NW5, Suggs notes the leafy Surrey surroundings as he opines about homelessness in parts of London, adding ‘perhaps not so much around here,’ a shrewd but not altogether unwelcome reminder to the gathered Surrey middle-classes of Madness’ humble origins in Camden Town. Some less well-known but no less well-delivered fan favourites such as Take It or Leave It and Wings of a Dove follow, Suggs even taking the time to implore youngsters in the crowd not to follow his path and to be sure to try hard at school.
By the time they play mega-hit House of Fun, Madness are clearly enjoying their time on stage as much as the well-lubricated if a little subdued crowd are by now, as much silly dancing accompanies Baggy Trousers. Suggs openly ponders his reasons for living in the same house for forty years by way of introduction to Our House before closing the main part of the set with their much-treasured cover of Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love.
Much to the crowd’s delight the band return to play the self-titled Madness before closing the set with Night Boat to Cairo, both taken from their 1979 opus One Step Beyond. As they warmly thank the crowd it’s worth remembering at a time of such national doom and gloom that Britain has produced some fantastic songwriters and musicians during far more socially divided times than these.