If you’ve ever wondered whether Brideshead Revisited would still work if its iconic Vivaldi-tinged theme music was replaced by Three Lions (or whether Jeremy Irons would pogo to One Step Beyond) – the answer is a definitive “yes”, writes Michael Beakhouse.
As part of Cuffe and Taylor’s Summer House Sounds tour, stately Englefield House opened its grounds to a three-day festival spanning the July 6-8, kicked off magnificently by a top-form Madness with support from Indie band The Tailormade and 90’s Alt Rock stars The Lightning Seeds.
The dichotomy between the Elizabethan home of Conservative MP Richard Benyon and the defiantly working class headliners is not lost – the house was in clear sight of the stage and received the full, hilarious focus of Suggs’s attention during his between-song banter (“someone should go up there and tell him he’s left the lights on in the fifth floor!”)
But the pastoral grounds make a perfect backdrop for a summer festival, and though the audience turned out in force, the atmosphere is utterly peaceful and relaxing, creating the ideal blissed-out setting in which to enjoy sets from some of the finest bands of the last few decades.
After a rousing opening set from up-and-comers The Tailormade, The Lightning Seeds’ atmospheric music heralded the coming of twilight.
The pulsing organ drones sounded like the earth’s heartbeat, before giving way to a string hits such as Pure, Marvelous, The Life Of Riley and Three Lions – a moment of pure magic, as audience and band came together to wish England luck ahead of the looming quarter-final against Sweden (and yes, I had tears in my eyes when several hundred people yelled “30 years of hurt never stopped me dreaming”).
However the stars of the show were undoubtedly Madness, marking a stop on their Summer Stately Madness! tour.
The years have only strengthened an already rock-solid lineup, and the setlist was a start-to-finish parade of brilliantly played hits.
They were all here – Our House, One Step Beyond, House Of Fun, an incandescent It Must Be Love.
Suggs has lost nothing in stage presence since the 70s, and the camaraderie between him and the musicians is palpable.
The audience clearly valued the band in the same way England value tea, the flag and the Queen – deservedly so, given how much joy their music has brought to the nation over the years – and nothing compares to pogoing and singing along with a huge crowd of like-minded fans in a definitively English setting.
While future festivals in these grounds are yet to be confirmed, I sincerely hope they come to pass – as a venue for sun-kissed summer showcases of national treasures, this would be a perfect and much-needed alternative to Reading Festival (imagine Noel Gallagher and Tears for Fears performing in this space!)
Plus it would make up for that time when Lady Benyon chased me off the grounds for photographing her foliage without permission.