It was advertised to start at 7:30 and I have a bit of a thing about punctuality, so I was in my seat by 7:00, listening to some very odd (but good!) records being played by a bloke in an old suit and a funny hat, who later turned out to be Jerry Dammers, the founder of 2 Tone Records, the company that gave Madness its first contract. Jerry kept on playing until 8:00, when a Californian band called the Aggrolites came on. I felt a bit sorry for them as they were very enthusiastic and their organist Roger Rivas in particular was excellent, but the singer kept trying to get the audience to join in and it just wasn't happening. After they did their half an hour, Jerry Dammers came back and spun some more old records for about 40 minutes while the crew set up the stage for Madness. An attractive woman walking about on the stage was wearing a T shirt with a slogan on the front, and it took me a few minutes to work out that it didn't say Totty Crew, Titty Crew, or Butty Crew, but Nutty Crew, which makes rather more sense (Madness's nickname used to be The Nutty Boys). Four spotlight-operators climbed up an electron ladder and sat on top of a gantry hanging precariously above the stage from a few steel wires, making it swing back and forth. The whole time this was happening, people continued to arrive - the place wasn't really full until about 9:00, shortly before the main act started.
A pretty 18-ish girl (accompanied by her b/f) sat next to me and asked if I'd been to a Madness gig before. I said I hadn't, and she said neither had she but her parents had, and they told her it was brilliant. Then Madness arrived and opened the act with (what else?) One Step Beyond!
The girl next to me got up and started dancing, and I got up and joined in! Those who know me well will realise this was totally out of character. I never dance, because I'm embarrassingly bad at it, but I got caught up in the enthusiasm and let my inhibitions down for a change. The whole gig was a blast. I sang along badly to the songs I knew the words to (most of them). I danced with far more enthusiasm than skill. I jumped up and down and cheered. The songs that really got the audience jumping were the old favourites: Our House, Lovestruck, Madness, The Prince, House of Fun, My Girl, Night Boat to Cairo, Baggy Trousers, Wings of a Dove... It's hard to say which one I enjoyed the most, but I think it might have been House of Fun (where else would you get a packed stadium full of people to all jump up and down and sing along to a song about a boy trying to buy a packet of condoms?). There were a couple of new ones in there too. I'm going to try to get hold of the live recording of the gig so I can relive it.
I'd decided beforehand that I had to leave by 10:30 to be certain of catching the 11:05 last bus home and not getting stranded in Manchester, so I dashed out during the final bars of what I think was the final encore, and wound up arriving at the bus stop half an hour early. I know, I could have stayed a bit longer, but my paranoia about being late and getting stranded got the better of me... On the way home it seemed half the people on the bus had been to the gig, and some of them were even replaying bits of it on their mobile phones. Sadly my current mobile phone is too crap to record watchable video and I didn't want to risk taking my good camera (the ticket small print said something about confiscating recording devices), but I did get a few dodgy photos including these of the stage and the crowd in the basin of the arena (there was a fair bit of "moshing" going on towards the front):
I'd better go to bed now as I have to get up for work in less than six hours time...