Grandslam Madness is billed as a tour of outside venues; mini festivals with all the fun of the fair. Montrose on Sunday night (July 5) was the only Scottish date of 20 across the UK. This was not a revival tour, and there was nothing ironic about the fans that came to worship.
The East Links was the perfect place for the multi-generational Montrose Madness fans. Firm, sandy turf underfoot. A very busy bar serving lines of chatty strangers and international food stalls providing sustenance. The weather was perfect, warm and still.
A pair of teenagers buzz behind me, both wearing official tour T-shirts, braces and smart fedoras, one admits: “I’ve wanted to see Madness for ages, since I was eight, Suggs is so cool”. An excited lady in a red fez wheels quickly past us, through to the sold-out disabled viewing platform.
The crowd are a mixed lot. There are obviously many original fans present, as well as new converts.
Just like the Status Quo concert of 2014 there are still the free seats; several groups perched uncomfortably atop the dunes outside the enclosure peering over the portaloos towards the stage with binoculars, but we forgive them because the atmosphere within the fence is so electric, warm and friendly.
The support bands are good, the first, ‘The Lottery Winners” whip up the crowd with clever banter; the second, ’By the Rivers’, is a very young group playing heavy saxophone reggae and bouncy tunes in homage to the music we’re all here for.
“I’ve wanted to see Madness for ages, since I was eight, Suggs is so cool”
Madness is here to tell stories, illustrated by the video installations on either side of the stage. A narrative is shown through vintage film and TV images instantly recognisable to everyone. With extra saxophone backing from several session musicians, the original six members of Madness take to the stage looking fresh, fit and vital.
They are both cool and established and we know we are in the hands of professionals. The music is tight; the lyrics are familiar and shouted by everyone in the crowd. The band seem genuinely pleased to be here and are enjoying themselves, the energy is ricocheting off the thousands of bouncing fans.
Suggs says he is pleased to see so many young people and apologizes in advance for his language, although he needn’t, as he is incredibly charming throughout the whole show. ‘One Step Beyond’ gets everyone dancing with friends or strangers and hats are passed around the crowd as well as inflatable plastic saxophones.
Suggs talks about the old days, the skinny teenagers packed tightly into a small bedroom in 1979, writing songs about childhood and girls.
Monsieur Barso A.K.A. Michael Barson on tenor sax is charismatic with his tartan breeks, white bristles and bowler hat. He has penned a new song about his second wife, one of many new songs peppered throughout the set. The new material is relevant, catchy and clever but we wait patiently for the familiar tunes and at the first notes great cheers go up and the crowd begin hopping up and down in Madness steps.
Suggs, in good shape and in sharp suit and permanent shades leads us from one well-loved hit to another. We all begin to realise how many songs have become anthems for our lives. There are too many well-known tunes to list. ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘Our House’, ‘It Must Be Love’, ‘Driving In My Car’, ‘Wings Of A Dove’, but its ‘House Of Fun’ that makes the frenzied crowd leap extra high.
Madness it seems, have never been away and the evening was a rare treat for the satisfied masses who stagger home with tired legs after the final encore.