Days after playing the dizzying heights of Buckingham Palace, Ska Royalty band Madness amass a large, tight-knit audience that notably contrasts the skinheads and old-skool die-hards seen at the MEN and Manchester Move festival six years ago.
This doesn’t go unnoticed as Suggs references those “Who were but a twinkle in Grandaddy’s eye” with a sly chuckle. Whilst classics such as ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘My Girl’ are well received with all ages responding word-perfect, the pushy ‘all-knees-and-elbows’ vibe that characterises their performances takes many by surprise early on. A period of stumbling and shuffle is relieved by surprise Prodigy cover ‘Outta Space’.
It is evident that this is not just a crowd of people who happen to be at the main stage as ska belts and hats are speckled throughout and the question “Whose House?” is penned in what looks l like permanent marker across the face of a particularly excited teenage girl – apparently Suggs has still got it.
The opening to ‘Baggy Trousers’ is drawn out and catches out the majority of the crowd who are keen to get skanking. After what seems and eternity the resistance mercifully breaks into “Naughty boys in nasty schools…” and a gratifying mosh ensues.
For the first time at the main stage this weekend, there are no longer groups or pairs guarding their territories but one encompassing party of Madness guests. Fittingly ‘House of Fun’ feeds the Ska-hungry appetites before the Tempo is brought down to the melody of ‘It Must Be Love’. Much of this is left to a willing audience to fill in the gaps, the simplicity makes it a roaring success as even children held high on parents shoulders involve themselves with arms held high.
Never shy of a spot of drama Suggs announces they have been told to leave the stage. The anti-climax can be felt as postures sink stubbornly into the ground and a steady gaze of thousands spears the stage. “But”, he says, raising the statures facing him with the single word – “We are gonna turn our backs on all those that want us to get off” … silence.
Then collectively all band members turn to the back of the stage to furious applause. “We have one more thing to say to you”, he announces, turning to face the cameras and look them in the eye – translating to down to his audience through the looming TVs that flank the stage. As individual letters light up to spell the band name, 80s track “The Madness” spells the end of a memorable but not entirely off the wall performance. As one Tweeter (@Clywdian) aptly surmises: “You don’t have to enjoy Madness to enjoy the Isle of Wight, but it helps”.
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