Madness prove to be a big hit - at Headingley

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THE old ground had never seen anything quite like it.

Headingley, a venue more synonymous with Botham, Boycott and Bradman, on Friday night jumped very much to the beat of ‘Baggy Trousers’.

Madness were in town as part of the band’s summer-long ‘Grandslam’ tour of the nation’s racecourses, cricket grounds, rugby and football stadiums.

From Fratton Park in Portsmouth to Carlisle racecourse and most points in between, the ska legends have been entertaining fans up and down the country.

Headingley was no different, as 7,500 Nutty Boys (and girls) sang - and, in many cases, bounced - along to a host of familiar tunes during a quite brilliant finale that created an atmosphere so raucous even the old Western Terrace might have struggled to match in the days before the Headingley authorities started shutting the bars during big Test matches.

Whether down the front where pogoing seemed the order of the day or at the back in the shadow of the football stand, Madness devotees ignored a chilly night to hail their heroes.

Madness have always been a band for the people. Through lyrics depicting everyday life - whether it be a young man attempting to purchase what used to be known as ‘something for the weekend’ (House of Fun) through to pining for a simple life (My Girl) - the band have always dealt in subject matter that their fans could relate to.

Even the weather has been committed to song and, after the summer we’ve just had, launching into ‘The Sun and the Rain’ early in the set seemed to be tempting fate.

Thankfully, the night remained dry and that meant the assembled fans could sing along to their hearts content as the hits just kept coming.

Lead singer Suggs, on good form throughout, told the audience an hour or so into the gig that the band had first played in Leeds 36 years earlier. If it was designed to make everyone feel old, it failed - as was underlined during a seven song finale that featured such favourites as ‘It Must Be Love’, ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ and ‘Wings of a Dove’.

It was, though, ‘Baggy Trousers’ - that familiar paean to lost schooldays - that proved the highlight.

A staple diet of any Madness set, the outfield in front of the pavilion was transformed into a seething mass of bodies as Headingley paid tribute to one of England’s enduring treasures.