Nottingham Splendour was a great day out, and even the intermittent rain couldn't dampen the mood of the festival goers. The 30 minute plus queue to use the wobbly, portaloo facilities in one particularly persistent downpour was actually more cheerful than most two minute queues in my local supermarket!

When we arrived mid afternoon Imelda May was playing. I wasn't paying much attention to be start with and too busy taking in the sights and sounds (and smells) of my first festival. But her Irish/50's Rockabilly meets Amy Winehouse at her best – with a boran – style was quite infectious and drew us in. Anyone with a quiff that big and a double bass on stage gets my vote. The music was warm and instantly accessible. I haven't heard any of her songs before but she was familiar without being clichéd.

Madness were obviously the main draw of the day if the plethora of two tone t-shirts, fez hats, big boots and braces were anything to go by. They were also 15 minutes late and the crowd were getting restless. Beer cans, empty bottles and at one point a single cowboy boot were being flung about with drunken abandon. The front of a Madness gig is not the place for anyone of a delicate disposition so in the interests of safety we stayed about a third of the way back. Still it was close enough to get a good view as the elder statesmen of the two tone movement finally put in an appearance.

Madness were dressed in an assortment of black and grey suits as always, and I was struck that they don't look or ever give the impression of men trying to recapture their youths. This is just who they are. These days the suits are much more Savile Row than C&A but I didn't detect any pretension.

It was a well chosen set. While it was predictable perhaps to start with 'One Step Beyond', it gave the crowd what they wanted and lifted the mood, as did Suggs quips through the evening about buying Wollaton Hall or perhaps just "storming it." They played a mix of classics such as 'House of Fun', 'It Must Be Love' to 'I Chase the Devil AKA Ironshirt' from 'The Dangermen Sessions' through to a few new tracks from their latest album, 'The Liberty of Norton Folgate'.

With such an extensive back catalogue to choose from its impossible to include evey favorite and later singles such as 'Uncle Sam' and '(Waiting for the) Ghost Train' sadly never seem to make an appearance in their sets. Whatever album each track was from the crowd all knew the words and sang along with gusto. It's something to see even the biggest, baddest rudeboy indulging in unabashed hero worship and singing along with such passion. Even if not all of them managed to keep up the pogo for the full 90 minutes of Madness' performance.

Madness remain consummate live performers. They give the impression that it is never hard work or a chore to perform. They share an easy rapport with their fans old and new and the tracks they first performed 30 years ago still sound fresh and vibrant.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Peter Allison

















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Commenting On: Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, 19/7/2009 - Nottingham Splendour Festival 2








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