REVIEW: Madness, Newcastle Racecourse

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IN a weekend when The Rolling Stones were grabbing all the headlines at Glastonbury, another national music treasure was performing in a field in Newcastle.

Madness aren’t normally mentioned in the same breath as Jagger and Co, but after their closing ceremony performance at the London Olympics and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee set on the roof of Buckingham Palace they’re clearly up there as one of Britain’s pop music royalty.

If the Stones are the kings, Madness are the cheeky princes … or maybe court jesters. Anyway, they’re in the mix and, if Friday night was anything to go by, clearly loving every minute of their renaissance.

And while the racecourse wasn’t exactly Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage, the crowd was as odd as anything you’re likely see in that Somerset field. The headgear alone saw red fezzes mixing with extravagant Ladies Day fascinators.

There were those who were here purely for Madness and those purely for the racing.

And if any group can unite an audience it’s Madness. Whether you’re a fan or not, you know the words to more than one Madness tune and the extensive back catalogue of hits was given a good airing in the cool – but thankfully dry – Newcastle night.

There was a rather subdued start to proceedings as it became clear the sound from the stage did not carry up to the main stands. As the band played on, the massed ranks had to canter down onto the grass to get within earshot.

Once in situ, however, the crowd more than made up for the low decibels with their own hearty singalongs to the popular numbers like My Girl and House of Fun.

There was even an impromptu version of the Blaydon Races as one of the Madness crew revealed he was born in Cramlington.

Highlights, for me, included the flying plastic beer containers thrown by fans in time for the Baggy Trousers’ line, “bang on the ‘ead with a plastic cup”; the singalongs to Our House and It Must Be Love; and an extended version of Night Boat to Cairo which closed the evening.

There may be a stewards’ inquiry into the sound levels, but there’s no doubt music and racing can make great bedfellows. Newcastle Racecourse has backed a winner with this idea.