ISABEL COCKAYNE Thetford Forest
> Thetford Forest
From the opening words of One Step Beyond to the final chords of Night Boat to Cairo, there's never been anything like Madness in the forest.
Some 6000 people came together in Thetford Forest to see this unique ska/pop band that took the charts by storm in the late '70s and early '80s.
Lead singer Suggs, aka Graham McPherson, told the crowd it had been “almost exactly a year” since they last played together.
But everything about the set was so slick - apart from one fluff from keyboard player Mike Barson - it was like they had practised together every day since.
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The Forestry Commission revels in picking bands that will appeal to many people but this crowd was unlike any other.
Like the “nutty sound” of Madness - a fusion of pop and ska and everything in between - so too were the audience, a mix from skinheads to young children.
The majority were men - though not all were teenagers when Madness took off in 1979.
Madness, who broke up in 1986, have experienced something of a revival since it re-formed for two concerts in 1992.
That followed with more concerts, the Wonderful album release and the Tom Firth musical Our House, based on the band's music.
On Saturday night, dressed in almost identical suits, Suggs and Chas Smash were on top form, dedicating songs to family, friends and people in the audience and even managing a bit of crowd control in efforts to stop those at the front of the biggest mosh pit I've ever seen being “squished”.
If One Step Beyond got everyone excited, some of their better known sings like Baggy Trousers, Wings Of A Dove and Embarrassment whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
There was a fair amount of people tossing coats about and - as the evening wore on - copious amounts of beer. And someone lost a shoe, Suggs announced.
A few more serious songs, Grey Day, Tomorrow's Just Another Day and Johnny the Horse (about a man kicked to death) were further examples of their incredible song- writing ability.
So many of the songs are completely urban - such as Lampposts and Our House - they were slightly misplaced played in the heart of the forest.
But as Suggs said: “We should play forests more often. There's a mixture of mud, beer and something else here at the front. It's been a most enjoyable evening.”