Madness on the Downs
Stoke Road, Clifton, Bristol BS6 5RR

Madness on the Downs took place at the same location as The Downs festival the day before.  In a way it was like a 2 day festival, though today the 2nd stage was closed and this was very much Madness’s day.

Before we got near to the site we saw lots of people with red fez, who were clearly looking fwd to Madness. This tour celebrates their 40th year and this was the last date on the tour.

Whilst there had been threats of rain the day before, which manifested itself in a shower around midday which quickly cleared and was nice weather for the rest of the day, today was sunshine all day which just enhanced the already electric vibe.

The first act of the day was “Oh my god! It’s The Church!” who perform song, dance and comedy – the Right Reverend Michael Alabama Jackson explained the philosophy of his organisation thus – “Trump spreads a message of division and hate, we say F**K that!” – something I can definitely get on board with!

Having well and truly blown away the cobwebs the next act was Bjorn Again.  Now to be honest I’m not a massive Abba fan, nor am I keen on tribute acts, so by rights I should have hated them – but I loved them!  Absolutely superb, and bags of fun!

Next up was Trojan Soundsystem “For the past decade, Trojan Sound System have spread their message of love and unity through the power of ska, roots, dub, dancehall and UK bass music, headlining club shows, captivating festival crowds and supporting legendary Jamaican acts such as the Wailers, Luciano, Sly and Robby and the late great Gregory Isaacs to name but a few.”

Next it was legendary reggae DJ David Rodigan and his outlook orchestra taking us through the history of Jamaican music, with guest vocalists Hollie Cook and and Bitty McLean, to great acclaim.

Finally, it was time for Madness – I’ve only ever seen them at Festivals before, but I’d heard how these events take on a life of their own, and it’s true.  It was quite something to see absolutely everyone dancing over the course of the night.  From the opening monologue of “One Step Beyond” to the final notes of “Night Boat to Cairo”, Madness gave us 90 minutes of crowd-pleasing hit after hit, fun, though often with a serious message that is as relevant today as when they were written.

Every act on the lineup seems to have been chosen with great care and were a bit special.  At only £35, today was an absolute bargain!  A spectacular day of a spectacular weekend, which will live long in the memory!


Words + Pictures: John W. King

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