Madness, The Farm and Courts, Wirral Live 2017, Prenton Park

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All week I had been watching the weather forecast, something that concerned me for an outdoor music festival.

I needn’t have worried, after a dull day the gates opened mid afternoon Friday for an afternoon /evening of music, in a football ground, Tranmere Rovers ground in Birkenhead to be precise.

I understand this is the second year of Wirral Live, This year Friday night kicked off with Courts and included The Rhythm Method, The Farm and tonight’s headliners Madness.

Courts are a young band from Essex who played with enthusiasm to a small but appreciative crowd, unfortunately they have the unenviable task of being the opening act, but they didn’t let that dissuade them from putting together an effective set. Their music is a mix of genre’s, for me a mixture of funk, hip hop and rock gave them an interesting sound that’s caught the attention of Elton John and Zane Lowe of Radio 1.

Next up were a band introduced to the Northern crowd as  ‘Southern Shandy Drinkers’. The Rhythm Method are two young guys from London, Joey on vocals and Rowan on keys. They have a style that I cant put my finger on, but Joey’s spoken vocals catch the attention, as do the lyrics, that are very observant in channeling suburban life, house parties and alienation. Joey at one point mentioned “if you’re thinking of voting tory at this election, you’re a nonce”. Considering the content they are very listenable, and dare I say it catchy, Is this Indie meets Pop music, well I understand that’s their aim.

The Farm take to the stage to a great reception, this is a band I’ve know about for many years, but only because of the song ‘All Together Now’, but I wanted to discover more and Peter Hooton and the boys didn’t disappoint, I feel another vinyl purchase is on the horizon, Spartacus, perhaps?

The Farm, I understand got their name as the original members of the band grew up on the Cantril Farm estate in Liverpool, however as time moves on new members were brought in, but it took a few years to get national success.

Tonight’s set includes a couple of notable songs first being Groovy Train. Paul Hooton says ‘although we are in Birkenhead imagine we are somewhere warm’ as he introduces the song, I couldn’t help but catch up on the promo video for this song that includes a cameo appearance from Brookside close’s ‘Harry Cross’.

Back to tonight this song with its infectious beat goes down a storm with the crowd, but its ‘All Together Now’, that’s dedicated to Guitarist Keith Mullin’s impending Wedding the next day that really has the crowd going, its just one of those songs that is so likeable, especially considering its subject matter. I overhear one person from the audience say that was a short set, after they leave the stage and unfortunately it was all too short.

There set was interrupted half way, ‘due to a technical fault’ Peter mentions. While I accept this happens, I couldn’t help but notice this caused a break of at least ten minutes, Hence the short, truncated set. I would have thought some kind of interaction with the audience could have been made by the organisers to explain the delay but there was none, it seems communication was not their strong point, they left it to the band which I felt was very unfair.

2045, Suggs leads Madness out onto the stage, their set included all the hits but started with a great version of Embarrassment, followed by Madness, this was displayed in their back drop made of many LEDS to make up the word itself. The singles and tracks followed one after the other. The band really didn’t need to try, they had the audience captivated.

Its hard to believe that these lads started out forty years ago practicing in the saxophonist ‘Kix’ bedroom and would still be enjoying performing themselves as much as their devoted fans enjoy this national institution of good time ska music, an ongoing party atmosphere that nobody ever wants to see end.

The audience was awash with a sea of Fez’s. From where I was stood much fun was had, people dancing and singing along, to the music. They are a great fun band. The fans just couldn’t get enough, but as the night came to a close the stage was taken over by an army of children showing they were enjoying the Madness experience just as much as the adults. Demonstrating they appeal all ages and generations.

For sure, Wirral Live made a great decision to have them headline the opening night, could this be a hard one to beat the next day as they clearly went one step beyond’.

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