This is only the second time I've been to Wembley Arena since they revamped the place (the first time being the ill-fated Guns & Roses gig of which I have spoken previously
). It looks a lot better from the outside than it used to -- possibly courtesy of the nice lighting job -- and the inside's something of an improvement; well, the bit on the outside of the arena is; the actual hall itself looks little different, but apparently the stage is at the opposite end from where it used to be. Actually I suppose there's method in their madness; the end where the stage is now is further from any residential property, though you'd think most of the noise was directed in the other direction...
Anyhow. I managed to navigate to Harrow-on-the-Hill, left the car there, got some food and then took the Tube down to Wembley. Picked up ticket, got into venue shortly before extremities started dropping off; it was bloody cold! I didn't fancy being in the queue for the standing area, which seemed to involve being outside a lot.
The opening act were a California band called the Aggro Lites, who played fairly inoffensive reggae/ska stuff, plus also Jerry Dammers, the chap who started Two-Tone Records as a pre-show and inter-set DJ. (He was very good.)
The fans seem to be heavily concentrated into the forty-ish Essex-boy/girl mould; many of them had also brought their kids. (Walking back to the Tube, I saw a family -- dad, mum, son of maybe nine, daughter of perhaps seven -- where the dad and the son were wearing matching 'nutty boy' fezzes. Quite cute ;)). There were a lot of hats and a fair number of costumes in general; I felt a bit underdressed without a hat!
There's a new service called "concertlive
" where you can order a live recording of the show on the night, and either pick it up ten minutes after the show ends, or have it sent to you. Quite a good plan, I thought; mine will be in the post as I didn't entirely fancy the scrum of trying to pick it up after the show.
My seat was about 1/3 of the way down the arena from the stage, and towards the top of the lower tier -- pretty good for an impulse purchase less than 48 hours before the show ;) The place was absolutely packed.
Madness themselves were excellent. They played all the old goodies (well, I might have hoped for _Rise And Fall_ but then that was never a single -- they did play _Tomorrow's Just Another Day_ (my fondness for _Rise And Fall_ -- the album -- is almost certainly because that was the album for which they were touring when I saw them in 1983)) along with some new stuff. The crowd was definitely up for having a good time (this was the last gig of the tour, which may have helped); watching the mosh pit expand to encompass about half of the floor of the arena during some of the particular crowd-pleasers was rather impressive. _House of Fun_, _It Must Be Love_ and _Baggy Trousers_ seemed to get some of the best receptions (ah, _Baggy Trousers_... how well I remember dancing to that at my middle school's end of term disco...)
They're back to the original line-up, with Chris Foreman back in the band after a fairly brief departure. Still looking much the same, a bit older, a bit balder... though Lee, the saxophonist, now reminds me in a most disturbing manner of spooktastic
's Dad. ;)