Electric Picnic 2017: Madness on the Main Stage

Ed Power reviews Madness at the Main Stage on day two of Electric Picnic.

Early evening on day two of Electric Picnic and Madness frontman Suggs was struggling to make sense of it all. "Electric…Picnic?" he pondered, as the ska-pop veterans kicked off their set. "When I heard the name… I was worried"

He may not recall – but Madness also played the 2009 Picnic. They were a bit lost headlining the main stage after dark. The audience craved something tempestuous and cathartic – not the original Nutty Boys stretching their legs.

With the sun poking through and the dreaded overnight deluge yet to manifest, second time around they were far more in their element. A greatest hits performance was peppered with sardonic asides from the frontman and a few new songs (this is our most recent single – it was number one in Antarctica").

To put it another way, Madness were giving the huge crowd exactly what it wanted – chart classics, delivered with a wink and a grin. My Girl prompted an early sing-along – while House of Fun and Baggy Trousers sparked outbreaks of ironic dancing.

Still, the band weren't quite in "Best Of" mode. The experimental NW5 from 2009's opinion-dividing The Liberty of Norton Folgate showcased Suggs' obsession with his native London's underbelly and a cover of Max Romeo's Chase The Devil found the 10-piece communing with the ghost's of ska music past.

Agnostics may have yawned through these segments. For fans, it was a welcome reminder that Madness continue to push forward creatively and have no interest in becoming their own covers act. A mix of familiar and the unexpected added up to an unsurpassable afternoon treat.

Most Read in Showbiz