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REVIEW: Inverness goes mad for Madness as House of Fun ska legends go One Step Beyond at the Northern Meeting Park

By Kyle Walker



Northern Meeting Park, Inverness


ON a warm, balmy Friday night, Ness went mad for Madness as the ska legends brought the summer vibes out.

With a back catalogue stretching back to 1976 and so many of their songs settling into the heart of popular culture, the party vibes were almost guaranteed when the Chelsea rude boys returned to the Highlands for the first time since their Belladrum 2016 headline appearance.

And sure enough, Madness rose to meet the occasion, providing a brassy finish to this summer’s Live in the City series.

From the start, the mood was set perfectly – both by the sea of fezzes already pouring in through the Northern Meeting Park gates and by the music of young Manchester four-piece Jeremiah Ferrari.

Offering up dubby bass-drenched reggae that rattled the bones of everybody who turned out early, the band’s laid back musical vibes were in stark and pleasing contrast to the frenetic energy by the frontman Ryan Barton.

Bounding and twitching and banging his head to the music, geeing the crowd into a mass singalong during a welcome cover of ska standard Monkey Man, his sparks were just what was needed to ignite this crowd.

By the time of closer New Blood – a jagged, deliciously angular fusion of ska with the sound of mid-noughties indie – they had made more than a few new fans.

Following them would be difficult for a few support bands, but The Farm had a history with Madness and Madness fans that guaranteed a warm reception – with frontman Suggs the producer of the Liverpudlian band’s first album Spartacus.

And the band offered up a 45 minute flashback steeped in Madchester vibes (despite being Liverpudlian – just go with it), their rave-soaked rock sending fists pumping across the field.

While they may have calmed their partying ways – as frontman Peter Hooton puts it dryly while thanking fans for gifted presents before the set, “People used to give us drugs, now they give us cakes” – they can still get a crowd going.

Groovy Train’s synth-fused vibes was a classic shimmier, while a gargantuan eight minute version of their number three hit All Together Now brought the crowd’s voices out and things to a massive, sing-along close as the chorus repeated itself again and again, reverberating around the park.

But leave it to Madness – the shimmying of the crowd became a sea of skanking as the band burst out and burst straight into One Step Beyond.

Suggs, in sunglasses even as the sun set and darkness enveloped the concert, relished in his duties as frontman and crowd conductor. Each song had a little bon mot, a witty aphorism or a point to be made.

“Good people of Inverness, we’re so glad you can join us”, he tells the roaring crowd, before the band launch into The Prince – a song that, as Suggs points out, was performed on Top of the Pops 40 years ago.

And listening to the set – Madness’s heady mix of classic ska and light, jaunty pop music that seems to skip like a stone – one cannot help but be carried off by the band and their sound.

Even the band’s more political numbers – the rollicking Bullingdon Boys and the homelessness-inspired One Better Day – are deceptive in their pop hooks.

And House of Fun – possibly the greatest (or only) number one single ever written about prophylactics – is still as gloriously manic and carnivalesque as the day it was released, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

By the time of the encore, a cover of Prince Buster classic Madness (which the band named themselves after, all those years ago) and a storming, showstopping Night Boat to Cairo, there was Madness everywhere – not just on stage. KW

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