ALBUM REVIEW: Madness - Madstock

Madness ... Madstock (Salvo Sound & Vision).
Madness ... Madstock (Salvo Sound & Vision).

As anyone who was at their recent show at Chester-le-Street Riverside will attest, Madness still put on a hugely enjoyable live show, despite their advancing years.

They emerged as part of the nascent Two Tone scene of the late 1970s, but soon left their ska origins behind to become one of the most successful British singles groups of the early ‘80s.

When they split in 1986, most people thought that was that, so imagine their delight when the nutty boys announced they were getting back together in 1986.

They decided to stage a huge reunion show over a whole weekend at Finsbury Park in North London, and no one was quite sure how it would go down.

After all, while they’d been away, the music scene had changed, embracing Madchester, acid house and the US grunge explosion.

The naysayers needn’t have worried, of course; it’s a piece of music history now that the reunion was a huge success, with 72,000 fans flocking to the park over two days.

They made so much noise singing and dancing that the noise registered as 4.5 on the Richter scale used to measure earthquakes.

‘Madstock’, as it later became known, was born, and would go on to become a biennial event, held again in 1994, 1996 and 1998, with a fifth gathering held in 2009 to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary.

Here, the original video film of the event and the CD soundtrack are available together for the first time as a CD/DVD package, and it’s one destined to end up in many a Christmas stocking.

From the opening “Hey you, don’t watch that, watch this, this is the heavy, heavy monster sound”, to the closing encore of Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come, this is a glorious celebration of a band who have become a very British institution.

Hit follows hit, with One Step Beyond and The Prince followed by Embarrassment and My Girl, and The Sun And The Rain giving way to a wonderful version of Grey Day.

The original 18-track album is expanded by the inclusion of four bonus tracks, recorded over the two days, but in truth they add little to what was a fine set.

How can you better a performance which includes songs of the calibre of It Must Be Love (celebrated here with a huge singalong), Our House, Night Boat To Cairo and Baggy Trousers?

You can’t, which is why the extra cuts - Land Of Hope And Glory, Razor Blade Alley, Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day) and Take It Or Leave It - are unlikely to have been the highlight of anyone’s gig.

For all the hits, my personal favourite is Bed And Breakfast Man, never a single in this country, but greeted by a mass singalong all the same.

This is a document of a great weekend which no one who was there will ever forget - and now the rest of us can enjoy it all over again. 8/10. GW