MADNESS/WHITE DENIM/EVAN DANDO – Various venues, Shoreditch, 21/5/09
“Thanks for coming to see a washed-up Eighties pop band,” deadpans Suggs as MADNESS take the stage. We’re in The Light Bar, a 300 capacity venue on Norton Folgate, a thin stretch of street that separates Shoreditch from the City. The band are here to celebrate their new album, The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, which is currently sitting at No 5 in the midweek album charts. Not bad, certainly, for a washed-up Eighties pop band.
There’s something a little strange about seeing Madness play inside, in a venue this small. You might expect them to be leading massed knees-ups in the afternoon slot at a festival, perhaps; or anywhere, really, where they can have room to roam. It seems awfully cruel to confine them in such a small space. And a tightly-packed one, too.
Predictably, perhaps, the audience seems largely comprised of men in their 40s, who presumably have been following Madness since their earliest days, and a smattering of EastEnders cast members. More interestingly, there’s also a large contingent of teenagers who, I’m later told, are the band’s offspring – one member of Madness has, apparently, fathered no less than 11 children. We’re all crushed in here as Madness whip through most of the Norton Folgate album (including “On The Town” with Bodysnatchers’ Roda Dakar) plus a goodly number of classics – “Our House”, “It Must Be Love”, “The Prince” finishing with a rousing “Nightboat To Cairo”.
Then, it’s out into Shoreditch to catch some bands taking part in Stag & Dagger. This is, I suppose, rather like Camden Crawl, where one ticket will gain you access to 22 of Shoreditch’s many pubs, bars and clubs. I expect the streets to be crammed with Hoxton’s finest dashing from venue to venue across Great Eastern Street or down Brick Lane. In fact, it’s eerily quiet round here. It’s only when I get to a particular venue – the Hoxton Bar & Grill, on Hoxton Square – that I realise the reason the streets are so quiet is because everyone is standing in a queue to get in somewhere. They are, literally, queueing round the square to see WHITE DENIM.
The last time I was at this venue was almost a year ago to see Fleet Foxes. While certainly there’s not much parity between the beguiling harmonies of the Foxes and White Denim’s muscular jams, the audience response is broadly identical. A lot of people – or at least, the ones who can get in – are just transfixed by White Denim’s thunderous garage psych-out. I’m frankly amazed at the impressive velocity they sustain through their 13 song set, including “All Your Really Have To Do”, “Shake Shake Shake” and “Darksided Computer Mouth”.
And so it’s in a slightly disorientated state I head to Cargo for EVAN DANDO. Cargo is a bar-come-restaurant (I recommend the chorizo sandwich – only £5.95) in converted railway arches off Shoreditch High Street. It’s, by nature, quite a dark, enclosed venue, but it’s certainly given a great deal of colour and light tonight by Evan.
Arriving on stage pretty promptly at 12.15, he plays for about an hour, running song into song into song, barely speaking in between. An hour, incidentally, would be the length of time it would take to play It’s A Shame About Ray in its entirety twice, with room for a short encore. And while indeed we do get pretty much all the album – including a hushed “Frank Mills”, a singalonga “Confetti” and a cheery “Alison’s Starting To Happen” – there’s plenty of room for “Into Your Arms”, which gets the tightly-packed crowd whooping, “It’s About Time” and, I reckon, about 15 more songs.
Looking round the crowd – mostly, a slightly older crowd in their mid-late 30s, a lot of couples –everyone’s pretty much smiling throughout. I’m hard pressed to think of another gig I’ve seen recently where the audience has quite literally glowed so much with happiness. It’s testament, I suppose, to Evan’s easy-going nature and near-faultless collection of songs. He leaves the stage with much cheering and little fuss, only to pop back a second later. Sadly, there’s no encore; whether he planned to do one, or whether the venue’s curfew has hit isn’t clear. All the same, top marks; lovely stuff.