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Madness wow the crowds at St Lawrence Ground Canterbury

There was a whole lot of fez happening in Canterbury last night.

The road leading up to Kent’s lovely St Lawrence Ground was full of them.

Flashing pork pie hats were also in abundance –thanks to some nifty street trading - along with a sprinkling of fake sheiks.

Throw hundreds of thirsty, shaven-headed geezers into the mix and you had yourself one curious passer-by.


“What’s going on at the ground tonight?” asked a driver caught up in the ensuing Old Dover Road traffic melee.

“Madness”, we replied. She shot us a “you’re not telling me”, look without realising we were referring to the cause of the commotion, rather than commenting on it.

What was clear, though, 36 years after their chart debut, the so-called Nutty Boys are still a huge draw.

The Canterbury show was the latest stop-off in their nationwide Grandslam jaunt, described, by their PR at least, as the “biggest open air tour ever”. 

A once magnificent seven, the band have been reduced to a sensational six having temporarily lost original member Chas Smash to a solo project.

Their stage arrival was pre-empted by big screen flashes of English sporting triumph – Geoff Hurst’s 1966 hat-trick goal; Jonny Wilkinson’s 2003 World Cup winning drop-kick, so we were more than primed to greet a group of north Londoners who themselves have become national treasures of the pop music kind.

Madness played at the St Lawrence Ground
Madness played at the St Lawrence Ground

They started with a slinky, teasing unfamiliar one, Grand Slam, before launching into the hits.

Embarrassment, The Prince, My Girl, Shut Up…the back catalogue was given a befitting thumb-through.

For some, with the headline act up and running, it was a chance to take advantage of the emptier bars.

“I’ll go and get a drink when they play one we don’t know,” shouted one bloke to his “dry” compadres.

He remained skanking in the crowded outfield for a full half-hour before making good his promise during Mumbo Jumbo, a slice of ska-based filler sung by saxophonist Lee “Kix” Thompson.

For it’s not only regular frontman Suggs who takes a turn in Madness’ stage spotlight.

During a “crazy” interlude, guitarist Chris Foreman gave a virtuoso performance of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, which, mad as it seems, set things up nicely for a finale of Camden Town classics: Wings of a Dove – which along with non-hit Dust Devil competed for man of the match, as it were – Our House, and set closer, It Must be Love.

Night Boat to Cairo, inevitably, brought the encore and evening to an end.

When Madness first reunited in 1992, the joint cacophony of band and audience fervour measured significantly on the Richter Scale. The earth moved only occasionally last night.

But, with all that’s currently wrong with the world, it was moving enough to witness several thousand respectably-aged people let go of the present to revisit their “nutty” former selves.

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