Due to missing a train and getting lost, I arrived at Arena 7, a giant Thunderbirds Are Go type hanger in time to see Squeeze finish their set. Rockpile were next up. Juxtaposing the vocals, they slip neatly 'twixt Bremner, Lowe and Edmunds with ease. Highlights are "Pet You And Hold You," "Girls Talk" and the brilliant "Crawling From The Wreckage."
John Cooper Clark did a good job as MC and Madness followed to much cheering. The start seemed strangley uncertain and "Mistakes" was riddled with them. Their brand of music is based on communication and it wasn't until "My Girl" and "Embarrassment" that the dancing began. "Prince" and "Baggy Trousers" preceded a manic "Madness" and the first encore of the night "Nightboat To Cairo." Love them or hate them, they're good at what they do.
Selecter entered and presented the new band with Adam Williams on bass and James Mackie on keyboards. Pauline Black was still in fine fettle but the band's new direction is too political, moralistic and patronising as well as far too guitar dominated. The new album was plugged and "Bristol + Miami" and "Bomb Scare" will never bear up to comparison with the "bontempi" feel of the quaint popiness of "On My Radio" or "Missing Words." Nice try.
The enigmatic Elvis and the Attractions strangely did not headline. Beginning with a ballad "Shot With His Own Gun," EC, not one to wallow and glory in the past, treated us to a set of mainly new or Get Happy songs. The "broken piece" keyboards of Steve Naive stood out on "Pretty Words" and "Human Touch" whilst "King Horse" was a gem. The man is never boring and the band are probably the best around. It wasn't until the well deserved encores "Oliver's Army," "Watching The Detectives" and "Can't Stand Up" that the crowd gave full vent to their pent up appreciation. Elvis Costello's OK.
And so to UB40, Their rise to stardom has been as meteoric as deserved but tonight was the peak. Despite all the NEC staffs efforts, UB40 got 11,000 people dancing. Dancing in seats, on seats, in aisles, in toilets, on steps everywhere. "Dream A Lie," a really underestimated B side was the catalyst, from then on, dance, dance, dance through "Earth Dies Screaming," "Burden Of Shame," "Little By Little" and so on. Music to dance to late at night!
The whole night worked, the bands worked, the audience worked and worked. Seven hours of something to please everyone but, come on, no bar???
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