Day One of Wirral Live saw Prenton Park transformed into one big ‘House of Fun’ presided over by the legendary Madness.
Scouse indie favourites and tireless justice campaigners, The Farm were one of the standout bands from this year support. “Never thought I would be playing Prenton Park! “Quipped lead singer Peter Hooton, a staunch Liverpool FC fan who connected with the audience from the word go.
A tight set of covers, such as ‘Bank Robber’ and ‘Stepping Stone’ were interspersed with a selection of back catalogue gems. “Imagine you are in Ibiza” quipped Hooton as he introduced the hit ‘Groovy train’ referencing the band’s memorable trip to the white island in 1990. All was going well until they blew the fuses on stage and we were plunged into silence for ten minutes before power was restored. A hastily rejigged set list had to lose a couple of their songs from their new EP, ‘Feel the Love’, including the title track. ‘Altogether Now’ the Justice Tonight anthem rounded off a short but stirring set with a rousing mass sing along.
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Where do we start with a band like Madness? Suggs got the party started by asking us to imagine we were watching a 1979 episode of Top of the Pops by leading us into the infectious early hit, ‘The Prince’.
With a colossal back catalogue to delve into, it was a case of belting out constant hit after hit with classics such as ‘One step beyond’ and ‘Our House’ keeping the audience dancing for the whole set. Many sections of the audience had dressed for the occasion wearing fez hats; others had opted for the traditional soul boy/mod pork pie hat. I even saw a group of men dressed in khaki ensembles with pith helmet as per ‘Night boat to Cairo’ video.
Front man Suggs doesn’t appear to have aged at all and was as sprightly as ever, stopping to chat to a very young lad in Fred Perry shirt perched up against the barrier, urging him to study hard at school and to “get some levels”. Keen to engage with their youngest fans, Madness orchestrated a mass stage invasion finale by the junior members of the audience which was as touching as it was entertaining.
Once again Madness proved that they are not ‘Yesterday’s Men’. They still play and sound as good as ever and that their unique blend of ska, reggae and two tone music has a timeless quality that is as relevant today as it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s.