A Pre-Xmas Party

I've been to a number of gigs at the Newcastle Arena over the years, but this was certainly the most charged and passionate I've known an atmosphere there to be. It was also the highest I've seen the average age of a crowd, although the latter was no surprise.

For many the evening's entertainment began in one of the city centre bars, one of whom spotting Suggs and co had come to the North East, were doing their best to get in on the act with many a late seventies and early eighties ska and reggae influenced classic being blasted out. Once out of the rain inside the Metro Radio Arena the alcohol fueled punters were in the mood for a pre-Christmas party.

Madness played most of the classics but there were a couple of surprising absentees such as 'Driving In My Car' and 'Uncle Sam'. Dramatic classical music announced the arrival of one of British music's legends, followed by a triumphant rendition of 'One Step Beyond' to get the gig underway. 'My Girl' and 'Embarrassment' followed, but from here on until the back end of the set this was very much a night for the devoted Madness enthusiast with the classic hit hunters having to wait for the rest of the band's signature tunes.

'House of Fun' appeared half way through the night and was inevitably one of the most popular tunes, but a mixture of less instantly recognizable singles, the odd new track which were interesting but unremarkable and some excellent covers made up the bulk of the middle of the gig. The cover to stand out the most was 'I Chase The Devil' by Max Romeo, the reggae classic brought into the nineties by the Prodigy on the rave smash 'Out of Space'.

Although many of those in the arena continued to lap up every moment, it took the appearance of 'Baggie Trousers' to bring the place back to boiling point. Incidentally this was actually one of the sweatiest gigs I'd been to all year.

'It Must Be Love' brought the main body of the show to its close leaving much of the Newcastle Arena chanting football crowd style for Madness to return. When they did the encore featured 'The Return of the Los PalMas 7', with 'Madness' bringing the gig to a predictable but mighty fine end.

Much of the crowd will have been reliving their youth with a band who soundtracked many a teenager's life in the eighties. For those seeing them for the first time this may not have been quite the occasion to match the heavy days of the band's early career but there are some acts who just need to be seen, regardless of the time or the place.