MADNESS – LIVE AT TITANIC BELFAST (BELSONIC) 20.8.2016

It’s fair to say that 2016 has been a Summer of Madness in Northern Ireland. Normally when you hear such a description, you’re expecting non stop riots. This is a good Madness, and Northern Ireland Madheads had three opportunities to indulge in their favourite band this summer.

In July, the musical Our House had a run at Grand Opera House, while Belsonic offered fans the chance to experience the real thing.

It was the second time that Madness had headlined Belsonic, having appeared at Custom House Square in 2012. Like in 2016, a few days later they were followed by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

There is a tenuous link between Madness and Noel Gallagher, as it was an inebriated Madness (who had just come off stage after performing) who replaced Oasis at short notice in 2009 at the French music festival where a backstage spat resulted in Oasis split.

Madness are always a popular booking at festivals, having done the afternoon legends slot at Glastonbury. Quite impressive for a band in their 50s, as most who get that slot are at an advanced age people watching on TV had thought they were dead.

Madness aren’t dead, but they are down a member, with Chas Smash leaving in 2014.

That loss is evident in the opening song, as he would traditionally kick off a Madness gig with his intro to One Step Beyond, their signature tune. One of many, you could say.

It was Madness first gig in Belfast since December 2014. They have been touring a lot since then. A tour in the summer of 2015 of small to medium sized stadiums missed Belfast, making the delays of the Windsor Park redevelopment even worse. There was Ravenhill as well they could have used.

Madness have been gigging in Belfast since 1979, playing in what Suggs described as “What was left of” The Europa Hotel.

They entered the stage to House Of Fun, before Suggs apologised to those in the audience who were expecting to see Westlife’s comeback tour, before advising those in the audience on medication or of a nervous disposition to look away as Lee Thompson did a saxophone solo during their debut single The Prince, a song which Suggs introduce by pretending he was presenting Top Of The Pops, describing them as “A bunch of hermits from North London”.

Something threw a bra at Lee Thompson. Not the first time that’s happened in Belfast either.

Naturally, there was a lot of dad dancing. Most of it in the crowd. If you can’t be silly at a Madness gig, when can you be silly?

My Girl was performed as a slow ballad, with Suggs over dramatically pretending to cry, before the song was performed as the way we all know and love it.

As is now tradition, we were treated to a Chris Foreman, billed as the best guitarist in Madness, karaoke set. He said he had taken requests from people, and had to disappoint them, that he would continue his karaoke.

Foreman recalled a walk around Belfast earlier that day when he asked what the name of the boat parked at the docks was. When told it was Bryan, he replied “like Bryan Ferry?”

The boat parked could be seen from the stage. It was a night boat to Scotland, rather than going to Cairo.

Fans were treated to Foreman singing his own version of Living On A Prayer by Bon Jovi.

When performing The Sun and the Rain, the weather obliged. Sort of. We got rain, but no sun.

It was a hit filled show, One Step Beyond was snuck in mid show, alongside Embarrassment, Wings Of A Dove, Shut Up, Our House and It Must Be Love, while Madness and Night Boat To Cairo were performed in the encore.

It typical Madness fashion, it was utterly unpredictable.

Suggs will be in Northern Ireland next Saturday, heading to Bangor to talk about his career as part of Open House Festival.

If their live shows follow the current pattern (Madness last three Belfast gigs have been 2012, 2014 and now 2016) we can expect to see them back in 2018.

Can’t wait.

Photo Album

See Also

Madness live at The Odyssey 2014

Madness live at The Odyssey 2014 Photo Album

Madness live at Custom House Square 2012

Madness live at Custom House Square 2012 Photo Album

LINFIELD 4-0 GLENAVON 20.8.2016

On the day of the 1st Round of the 2016-2017 Irish Cup, it was perhaps apt that last season’s two finalists should meet in the league. It wasn’t about getting revenge for Linfield, it was about getting their title challenge back on track after two draws, and leapfrogging a side expected to be one of their title rivals.

For me, this match was to be followed by Madness. The band, though the way recent meetings between Linfield and Glenavon have gone in recent years, there was the possibility of Madness at Windsor Park before the main event at Titanic.

Linfield were straight on the attack. Sammy Clingan, making his first start, had Linfield’s first attempt on goal, when his low free-kick was saved by Johnny Tuffey.

Within a minute, Linfield were 1-0 up when Chris Casement created enough space out wide to cross for Josh Carson to fire home from close range.

Linfield were having the better of the play in the first-half and doing most of the attacking, though Glenavon did have their moments.

Andrew Waterworth came closest to scoring a second for Linfield when his header goalwards had to be tipped over by Tuffey on his goal-line.

Glenavon were struggling to defend corners, though Linfield were struggling to take advantage of this.

Linfield went in at half-time 1-0 up, but knew the three points were far from won.

Having been so poor in the first-half, many were anticipating Glenavon to come out strongly for the second-half. That didn’t happen. Linfield didn’t need to withstand any pressure, they went out and got a second goal in the early minutes of the second-half, replicating their start to the first-half.

Unsurprisingly, it came from a corner, when Aaron Burns was unmarked to fire home from close range. There were only so many times Glenavon could get away with it before Linfield got it right and punished.

Having come back from 3-0 down to draw at Ballymena in their last away game, Linfield knew that Glenavon have the ability to come back from a deficit. They saw it first hand last September when Glenavon came from 3-1 down to level at Windsor Park, although it would turn out to be in vain that day.

If anything, it looked like Linfield would get the next goal. Kirk Millar and Andrew Waterworth going agonisingly wide.

Such is Waterworth’s luck at the moment, that his shot agonisingly just missed the post, when if it did, it would have went straight to an oncoming attaker.

Just after the hour, Rhys Marshall got sent-off for a high tackle on Chris Casement.

Soon after, Gary Hamilton, wearing 2 having changed from 80 and showing utter contempt for squad number protocol, entered the action.

You know Glenavon are in trouble when their chief back seat driver enters the play to try and influence things.

Aaron Burns was denied by the crossbar as Linfield chased a third goal. The wait wouldn’t be long, as Sean Ward ran unchallenged to fire home for his first Linfield goal at Windsor Park.

He had passing options left, right and centre, all of which would have probably resulted in a goal. He decided to go himself and got rewarded.

With Crusaders and Ards drawing, Linfield were going joint top of the league. If they could win this game 9-0, they would go top of goal difference.

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest they could have won by that margin.

By now, Paul Smyth had been introduced. It was the perfect time for him, against tired opposition chasing the game.

He played through Stephen Fallon who should have scored, but he fired his shot straight at Tuffey.

There wasn’t long to wait for Linfield to make it 4-0, when Aaron Burns headed home from a Ross Gaynor cross. There were Linfield players literally queuing up to score.

Burns was denied a hat-trick when his header hit the post, while Fallon fired a shot low across goal at Tuffey. Despite the frustration of those missed chances, I think Linfield fans would have settled for a 4-0 win at 2.59pm.

Ards got a late winner at Ballymena, which means they sit top, looking down on Crusaders and Linfield who sit two points behind them.

Immediately, talk is, if Ards can “Do a Leicester”?

Events in England last season mean that Ards are being taken seriously four games in as they would be if they were two points clear with four games to go.’

With games against Glenavon and Crusaders coming it, it might be advantageous to Linfield if Ards good start continues for the next fortnight. But ends by September 24th, obviously.

I’m hoping that Ards finish in the top six for purely selfish reasons. I might be able to get to Linfield’s trip there in December, and a second visit in the (hopefully) nicer weather in April is very appealing.

The reason why I might not be able to go to Linfield’s trip to Clandeboye Park in December, is that I might be in Manchester that weekend.

I’m waiting for the UEFA Cup group draw on Friday. I’m hoping to go to one of United’s group games, and see if I can get a decent price to stay out for a Sunday game afterwards.

A perfect draw for me would be Dundalk (no offence, but they won’t overturn a 2-0 defect in Poland) v United on Matchday 3 or 4 with a 6pm kick-off at Lansdowne Road. Could do a day trip to Dublin, see the game and be home by 11pm.

I’ll keep an eye on Dundalk’s draw for day trip purposes. Inter Milan would be nice if they avoid United. A chane to add them to my 102 Club list.

Next up for Linfield, is Dungannon at home, who have won their last two games, making their third trip to Belfast this month.

A must-win game for Linfield regardless, but especially since the game away to Cliftonville on 3rd September has been postponed due to international call-ups.

Linfield have taken advantage of this by arranging a friendly against Rangers for Jamie Mulgrew’s Testimonial.

Never mind getting fit, the performances of Sammy Clingan and Sean Ward means he’ll have a struggle to get picked for his own testimonial.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 19.8.2016

1. Laether Strip – Waterfront
2. Travis ft Josephine Oniyama – Idlewild
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA …… What A Life
4. Madness – House Of Fun
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Cabron

CRUSADERS 0-0 LINFIELD 13.8.2016

Linfield made the trip to Seaview for the first of a double header of games against the other sides in last season’s top three, looking to make up for lost ground following Wednesday night’s draw against Coleraine.

Seaview was the ground last season where Linfield’s winning start was derailed and then in April, their title hopes were all but killed off.

They were hoping not to make it a hat-trick of Seaview disasters. Defeat wouldn’t have been fatal to their 2016-2017 title ambitions, but a five point gap in the middle of August would have been a big gap to make up already. On the flip side, Linfield knew that a win would see them, at worst, joint top of the league.

It wasn’t just two points that were costly for Linfield, with Jamie Mulgrew and Ross Gaynor missing today through injuries suffered on Wednesday night.

For the first time in a long time, Linfield have options in their squad, with Sean Ward and Josh Carson coming in, while Aaron Burns replaced Paul Smyth.

It was a game where defences were on top. Linfield were warned that they couldn’t afford to make a slip when Crusaders were presented with a free chance from a free-kick, which they couldn’t take.

Likewise, Linfield weren’t getting a lot of joy, being at their most dangerous from set pieces, but like Crusaders, not having a clear goalscoring opprtunity.

Talking of goalscoring opportunities, Stephen Lowry hauled back Paul Heatley as he ran forward in first-half stoppage time. It was a classic case of “Taking one for the team” as he picked up a yellow card. It would end up to be a costly card for Lowry later in the day.

As Heatley lay on the ground, Crusaders players surrounded the referee. It was a common theme any time a Linfield player committed a foul. Thankfully, Linfield didn’t play Crusaders game.

It’s not as if Raymond Crangle would have needed any encouragement to book a Linfield player.

To be fair, he wasn’t as bad as usual. By his standards. His pre-match warm-up saw him lap up the boos from Linfield fans and cheers from Crusaders fans as he jogged past them.

It appeared that Panto Season had arrived in Belfast four months early.

Like any great entertainer, he saved one of his Greatest Hits for the end, by booking Andrew Waterworth for handball after he landed on the ball after being fouled in injury time.

From the resulting free-kick for Lowry’s foul, Linfield switched off, allowing Crusaders to get space after the free-kick was taken quickly, and then allowing Paul Heatley a free header. Thankfully, it was straight at Roy Carroll.

Quick free-kicks from Crusaders were a recurring theme during the game, catching Linfield out, but Linfield had enough shape about them not to be punished for it.

In the opening minutes of the second-half, Linfield were reduced to ten men when Stephen Lowry got a second yellow card.

Ironically, just seconds before, Kirk Millar had lost possession and was chasing it back. I was mumbling to myself at Millar not to make a tackle and get sent-off (He was also on a yellow card), only for Lowry to jump in and do likewise.

On the touchline and with the Crusaders player going nowhere, it was a stupid tackle to make, especially for a player on a yellow card.

Despite being down to ten, it was far from game over for Linfield. In the past year they have faced Cliftonville, Ballymena and Glenavon with ten men and been undefeated in those games. In two of them, they turned a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

In terms of personnel, Linfield didn’t need to turn to their bench, with Aaron Burns slotting back into midfield.

Sammy Clingan, on the bench, would have to wait a little longer for his competitive Linfield debut.

Despite being a man light, Linfield had their best attacking moments after the red card. Mark Haughey headed over from a free-kick when he should have scored, while Kirk Millar’s cross was almost headed into his own goal by a Crusaders defender.

David Cushley had Crusaders best chance, but his shot was saved by Roy Carroll.

It wasn’t just on the ground that Carroll was commanding, as he frustrated Crusaders tactics of lumping the ball into the box.

Crusaders could cross the ball all day, Carroll would have caught the ball all day.

The game was crying out for Paul Smyth to be introduced from the bench, which he was, for Josh Carson, giving Crusaders problems. He flicked a header wide from a free-kick.

It was the sort of game that had 0-0 written all over it as both teams struggled to make the breakthrough.

As the final minutes played out, both teams went for goal, but without committing too many players forward.

This was backed up by Crusaders passing it about in their own half in the final seconds of the game

It was neither a good result or a bad result, Both teams will not be unhappy with a point while feeling that they could have won all three.

Up next for Linfield, is a home match against Glenavon, one of three clubs (the others being Crusaders and Ards) two points above Linfield at the top.

Glenavon have started the season in goalscoring form, scoring 10 to Linfield’s 3 in the opening 3 games. On the other side, they are prone to conceding, shipping 5 goals in those 3 games, the same as Ballinamallard who have lost all three games and sit 11th.

Glenavon’s form suggests there will be goals. A simple 1-0 for Linfield will do me.

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LINFIELD 1-1 COLERAINE 10.8.2016

Linfield went into the now traditional (you can call three years a tradition?) August midweek fixture list looking to continue their winning start to the season and get two wins out of two. They ended up getting the win they wanted. In fact, they ended up being thankful to remain unbeaten.

Linfield began the game by getting a lot of joy out their left. They were having a lot of possession but not really doing a lot with it.

The closest they came to scoring was when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, unable to recreate his two goal heroics when the sides met in February, while Paul Smyth curled a shot straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Andrew Waterworth went closer when he knocked a cross goalwards was denied.

Coleraine had their attacking moments, but not a lot that worried Linfield. For all their possession, there wasn’t really a moment when it looked like a Linfield goal was inevitible.

In the opening moments of the second-half, Linfield continued in the same manner, when a Niall Quinn cross was asking to be put in, but nobody was able to get on the end of it and put it in.

Within minutes, Windsor Park was shocked, when a cross from the left fell straight to James McLaughlin, who fired home.

Most home supporters were shocked that he should be unmarked in the penalty area. When the ball landed at his feet, there was that agonising second when everyone knew he was going to score, but hoped that somehow he wouldn’t.

McLaughlin had only come on as a substitute at half-time.

Coleraine had a chance to make it 2-0 but couldn’t take it. They did get a free-kick for a handball by Mark Haughey when blocking it. They couldn’t take advantage of the free-kick.

For a team that never really looked like scoring, it was no surprise that Linfield’s substitutions were of an attacking nature – Josh Carson, Aaron Burns and Michael McLellan all entering the action.

Despite that, Linfield still struggled in front of goal, not creating a clear opportunity. It was all too predictable. Coleraine’s defence were comfortable.

As time ran out, Linfield got a fortunate corner when a clearance hit a Linfield player and went across the pitch and out for what looked like a goal kick.

Linfield fans sighed that another attack ended unsuccessfully with time running out.

To everyone’s surprise, a corner kick was awarded. Linfield took advantage of their luck, when Aaron Burns flicked home from close range after a flick on.

The body language of the Coleraine suggested that they could lose the plot. Lyndon Kane was sent-off before the game restarted.

Linfield couldn’t take advantage of the momentum swing or the extra man in the time that remained.

In fact, Coleraine almost got a dramatic late winner when Jamie McGonigle curled a shot that hit the post. Time stood still. Like with the corner kick decision a few minutes earlier, Linfield benefitted from a stoke of luck.

No disrespect to Coleraine, but this result was two points dropped, even though the circumstances of the game would see it considered one point gained.

What it was, will decided in 36 games time.

Already, Linfield trail Crusaders by two points. They travel to Seaview on Saturday. The gap can’t be allowed to go to five points, even if it is retrievable.

Linfield are more than capable of beating Crusaders if they get stuck in and play to the best of their ability.

They haven’t done that yet. Saturday would be a good start.

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BELFAST PEACE WALL ART – AUGUST 2016

A curious thing I do, is that every six months, I cycle up to the Belfast Peace Wall on Cupar Way. Last Sunday, was my time to head up there.

I’ve been documenting Street Art in Belfast and beyond since 2007, and it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually ventured over to Cupar Way.

I’d seen images, both photos and film footage of it. To be honest, as Street Art goes, it’s not actually that impressive.

If I was to offer advice to tourists wanting to see Street Art in Belfast, i’d send them in the direction of North Street and Donegall Street, in the City Centre.

You can walk around and get lost if you wish and find art that way, but if you like a bit of structure, there is a tour now operating on Sundays.

I will admit to being fascinated by the ever changing evolution of the walls.

While I was there. I tawt I taw a Puddy Tat. Oh wait, I did!!

Slyvester The Cat was my favourite, even though he was buried under other Street Art.

I wonder what i’ll find in February 2017?

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BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1-2 LINFIELD 6.8.2016

I’ve enjoyed the past three months spending my Saturdays going out cycling. Not as much as I enjoyed jumping back into the madness of a new Irish League season.

The fixture computer gave Linfield a trip to Ballinamallard to begin with. Not that surprising perhaps, as barring 2012-2013, Linfield have travelled to Fermanagh in the opening two months of the season.

Of the new signings, Chris Casement (second debut) and Roy Carroll were the only starters, with Josh Carson on the bench.

It was a man who has fond memories of Ferney Park, Stephen Lowry (he scored his first goal for the club there), who put Linfield into the lead when he headed home from a Ross Gaynor free-kick after 8 minutes.

It was the first goal anywhere in the new Irish League season.

Ballinamallard were letting Linfield know they were in a game and that a two goal lead was needed just to be sure.

It almost came when a crossfield pass played in Kirk Millar whose shot was tipped onto the side netting, though the referee gave a goal kick.

Linfield were getting a lot of joy from crossfield passes and playing balls in behind Ballinamallard’s defence.

Paul Smyth got in behind the defence but couldn’t get enough room for a shot, allowing for a Ballinamallard tackle.

Ballinamallard got an equaliser when a failed overhead kick fell to Ryan McConnell, who fired home. This was not in Linfield’s plans.

It was a ball in behind the defence that brought about Linfield’s second goal, as Ballinamallard’s keeper cleared the ball from the left-back position as Andrew Waterworth chased for possession, the ball landing perfectly for Kirk Millar on the halfway line, who returned the ball into the back of the net.

There was a moment of tenstion as the ball was in mid air, someone near me even gasped as the ball went goalwards. The tension was over as soon as the ball hit the back of the net and Linfield fans celebrated.

The second-half, like the first-half, saw Linfield need a two goal margin. They couldn’t get it. Their best moment came early in the second-half when Kirk Millar fired goalwards from a tight angle, but his shot was smothered.

Like in the first-half, Ballinamallard were reminding Linfield that while there was a one goal difference, the game was far from won.

Josh Carson came on from the bench and looked lively.

With 10 minutes to go, Linfield had a flurry of attacks as they sought the goal that would secure the win, with Stephen Lowry and Niall Quinn going close. Smyth and Carson were the focal point of Linfield’s attacks.

Ballinamallard went closer, with a Laffery header going just wide. He was free in the box.

Only one game in, and Linfield were doing this to their fans.

As well as the Lafferty header, Linfield had to survive a nervy corner kick.

You can be comfortable in the final minutes with a one goal lead. Linfield weren’t.

As much as Ballinamallard deserve credit, all they needed was more luck or better decision making to get a point.

Still, have to take a win, especially considering Linfield’s recent record on the opening day of the season. We’ve been used in recent years to being two or three points off the top of the league, so we’ll take this.

It wasn’t a great performance, but it was enough to say Linfield deserve the points.

It’s all about getting wins, it doesn’t matter it you grind out an away win or rack up the goals at home to compliant opposition like Ballymena.

The games come thick and fast, with Coleraine visiting Windsor Park in the now traditional (you can call three years a tradition?) Wednesday night fixture list for matchday 2, before games against Crusaders and Glenavon before the end of the month.

Coleraine’s match being postponed today means Neil McCafferty will be suspended on Wednesday, so it will be ok to concede a free-kick in injury time if we’re a goal up.

I’d prefer it if we did the business well in advance of the 90th minute to be honest.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 5.8.2016

1. Biffy Clyro – Howl
2. Tegan and Sara – Faint Of Heart
3. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Come With Us
4. Two Door Cinema Club – Bad Decisions
5. ABC – The Flames Of Desire

Last Monday, was International Yorkshire Day. I went to Yorkshire once, it were alright.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM YORKSHIRE

1. Pulp – A Little Soul
2. Embrace – You’re Not Alone
3. Shed Seven – She Left Me On Friday
4. Kiki Dee – Star
5. Kaiser Chiefs – Modern Way

This Wednesday, is Duran Duran Appreciation Day. In other words, it’s just another day for me. I’d appreciate them a lot more if they’d come and do a gig in Belfast.

Here’s a Duran Duran Top five. It wasn’t easy trying to pick five. In fact, it was about as easy as a nuclear war.

FIVE SONGS BY DURAN DURAN

1. Wildboys
2. Hungry Like The Wolf
3. Ordinary World
4. Serious
5. Save A Prayer