Madness, support from By the River and The Lottery Winners, at Montrose Links, 5/7/2015. A review.
A summery evening near the beach in Montrose welcomed us and first impressions were that the town had grabbed the opportunity to enjoy this event with both hands. The pubs were doing a roaring trade, Madness were in town, and no one was keen to miss out. A long queue had formed prior to the gates opening, the opportunistic Fez salesmen had done more than well for themselves, the audience was without much doubt a certain age but as with Madness, age is not a factor in their ability and determination to have fun.
First on the bill were The Lottery Winners, winners of talent competition Live and Unsigned and who have since earned themselves airplay across the BBC as well as substantial support slots. Thomas Rylance fronts the band with a flamboyance and panache that his description of being a fat lad from Leigh does no justice too. Instantly charming and relating perfectly to the Montrose crowd, Rylance seizes the moment to milk the opportunity that he has been offered; including an improvised attempt at a guitar solo and plenty of selfies.
Self defined as “indie pop”, The Lottery Winners are at their best when they are playing the whimsical humorous ditties (exampled perfectly by ‘I Know‘), and perhaps the magic of the band is, when given the chance, let the music do the talking. “Best Gig Ever!” they declared on their twitter account, and from the crowd reaction no-one would disagree, it wasn’t just the band having fun.
Main support were By the Rivers who had endured a ten-hour drive to make it to Scotland. Welcoming the audience from the “city” of Montrose, did raise an eyebrow or two, however their brand of “Brit Reggae” played brilliantly as a contrast to the openers and was a great fit for the chilled milieu of the evening. Perhaps ‘Vulture’ stands out for starting off acapella, teasing a change of genre that is not sustained. Having an impressive CV that includes T in the Park and several Glastonbury appearances, the stature and composure of the Leicester based band is undeniable as evidenced in their stage presence. Lead, Neil Barrow, sings “We got to take control of the situation” and they most certainly do.
On taking to the stage Suggs admits that the video lead in for Madness will need to be reviewed next time play Scotland, using sporting moments to build anticipation although clips of the English football and rugby team do not get the expected results. It’s all taken in good humour.
Opening with new tune (also the name of the tour) ‘Grand Slam’, to a rapturous reception, on a night like tonight they were going to get nothing less. A selection of new material, a potential but not confirmed precursor for a follow up to 2012’s ‘Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da’, are sprinkled into the set.
Their 2009 release ‘Dust Devil’ appears mid set. Based on a cautionary tale of the dangers of drink and complemented by the big screens playing the captivating if not slightly disturbing video of a woman’s night on the tiles. Whilst the anticipated stormy weather did not appear, all of the band’s hits did, and in all their open-air live splendour they have clearly lost none of their poignancy or significance over the years; from ‘Embarrassment’ to ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ Madness fire on through the set.
Lee Thompson, laps up the attention from the adoring audience with a mixture of saxophone solos and chucking out chocolate bars, the crowd lapping up both. By the end of the set, his enthusiasm gets the better of him and an attempt to rip down a stage side flag doesn’t quite go to plan, the flag resolutely remaining attached to the pole. It is a surprise that Montrose sits as the band’s only Scottish date on the band’s current tour, but with an impressively sized audience and such a warm reception, you can’t help but get the feeling that this will be addressed.
Some bands never know when to stop, others have no need to. Madness tick all the boxes with a strong fan base and a stash full of greatest hits complemented by an enthusiastic live act that is reciprocated by the audience. Let there be Madness.