By Julia Miller
Newcastle was a hive of activity on the evening of December 2nd. The Newcastle v Manchester United match coincided with Madness’ concert at the Utilita arena on Saturday night, bringing all Geordie fans into ‘toon’.
The pints were flowing and the energy was high. As a 21-year-old, I was certainly an anomaly among the crowd and it’s safe to say that I brought the average age down. Madness acknowledged their usual demographic, noting the lack of young people at their concerts. Even though this is true, most Brits would recognise their big hits.
Dedicated fans fashioned red fez hats in reference to Madness’ music video for their 2011 single, Night Boat To Cairo. The headwear has since become synonymous with the band, with fez hats flying off the shelves at merchandise stands.
The support act were superb. I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Lightning Seeds before Saturday night. The 80s rock band are best known for their single Three Lions, a collaboration with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, which has become an anthem among English football fans. Their setlist had inflections of pop and rock, with effortless melodies, catchy choruses, and clean guitar riffs. Their bright and synthesised 80s sound was wonderfully received by the crowd, who clearly recognised the tunes. You Showed Me, Emily Smiles, and The Life of Riley were notably popular and for good reason.
After securing the top spot in the UK charts for their new album, Theatre of the Absurd, Madness were welcomed on stage with rapturous cheers and applause. The sunglassed vocalist, Suggs, declared that the band would take the crowd on a journey from the past to the present, and into the future. The setlist interspersed hits from their formative years of ‘petty criminality’, with songs from their new album.
The band were accompanied by Absurd and wacky graphics on screen, reflecting the exuberance of their music.
Wings of a Dove, another cherished classic, characterised by its quirky rhythm and catchy melody, was also a fan favourite and involved adlibbed political commentary. The lyrics advocate for peace and universal happiness: “take the hand of another and sing for the wings of the dove.” Suggs took the opportunity to express his opinion on current affairs, exclaiming “f*ck the war” during the song.
The 70s ska band certainly haven’t lost their spark. Lee Thompson’s flamboyant riffs on sax were extraordinary and the band’s lively stage presence was infectious. The setlist concluded with a rendition of It Must Be Love and an announcement of Newcastle’s win against Manchester United, to the joy of the many Newcastle fans in the arena. The concert was truly Madness!
Photography: Julia Miller