Madness in Cardiff review: We review the big Cardiff Castle gigs this summer

Man singing at Cardiff Castle
-Credit: (Image: DEPOT LIVE)

Two Tone/Ska legends Madness brought the party to Cardiff Castle in the latest of many gigs at the capital's landmark venue. The ever popular band, who rose to fame in the late '70s and early '80s always seem to be touring and their latest stop in Wales brought the party to a sizzling Thursday night in the capital and we have our review of that, below.

There's a brilliant roster of gigs at Cardiff Castle this summer and the action continued with castle being lit up by the disco fever of popular boyband JLS. This summer's packed Cardiff Castle line-up has already seen the likes of Manics and Suede - review of that show, here - Smashing Pumpkins and Avril Lavigne visit the capital with Catfish and the Bottlemen and Tom Grennan among those yet to come.

Scroll down to see what we thought of the live shows at one of Wales' iconic live music venues, Cardiff Castle. Find out about the latest events in Wales by signing up to our What's On newsletter here.

The most recent gig reviews will appear at the top. For tickets for the gigs coming up check out Ticketmaster. And for a full list of the gigs, click here.

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With just the unmistakeable first note of gig opener, One Step Beyond, the crowd were instantly dancing and partying the night away.

To see thousands of people just burst into dancing, with limbs flying everywhere in all manner of dance move, it couldn't help but bring a smile to your face. The party continued as they performed Embarrassment, Mr Apples and Shut Up.

Lead singer Graham 'Suggs' McPherson controlled the stage, addressing the crowd in only the way he can. From giving out life advice about not falling in love with the first lamppost, a great way to introduce Lovestruck, and saying: "It's so nice to be back here! Cardiff! Yes! People, music, friendship".

The rest of the band also put on a great show with Lee Thompson proving his incredible skills on the saxophone song after song after song. The party ended with a bang as Madness performed their most well-known hits, House of Fun, Our House, It Must Be Love and Night Boat to Cairo.

The adoring fans sang It Must Be Love back to silent stage, they had cut the music to let the crowd have their moment, to which Suggs said: "Yes! You know that one!"

Overall Madness brought a brilliant, fun and whacky party to Cardiff Castle which was the perfect setting for such a gig. They are welcome back to this House of Fun, anytime.

Steph Colderick

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Man playing guitar and singing
Noel Gallagher was accompanied by a cardboard cut out of Pep Gaurdiola -Credit:DEPOT LIVE

Best known as being one half of the famous Oasis brothers Noel Gallagher and his band, High Flying Birds, returned to Cardiff Castle on Wednesday, July 17. A man of very little words Noel's stage presence was accompanied by a cardboard cutout of his idol, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, which remained lit for the whole show.

Noel, who rarely addressed the crowd, razed through a raft of his solo hits to, begin with at least, a slightly sedate audience. However, once he performed Heat Of The Moment, If I Had A Gun and What A Life ! the crowd soon began to open up, singing the lyrics of If I Had A Gun so well, that Noel didn't have to sing himself.

Making what I think was a joke about "it coming home" Noel was greeted with passionate chants of "Wales! Wales! Wales" to which he replied: "No f**king way?" He also pointed out loyal fan Patricia who had been to 100 of his shows and she received a round of applause.

The best part of the night was easily what the majority of the crowd were waiting for, the Oasis section of the night. Acquiesce, Half The World Away, Live Forever and Don't Look Back In Anger, the soundtrack to many-an-audience member's life - Noel duly obliged and it's always a rousing singalong.

Finishing on Don't Look Back In Anger he had the crowd belting the lyrics back to him and, in anti-grump form exited the stage by complimenting the crowd with: "You've been amazing, as always".

There'll never be a better show during which to hear Oasis tracks than when both Gallagher brothers are on stage together - but, we'll, and so many of their fans will take the back-up (Master) plan as a satisfying second.

Steph Colderick

Rick Astley

Rick Astley at Cardiff Castle
Rick put on a great show -Credit:Cuffe & Taylor

He became an overnight sensation in 1987 thanks to the mega hit Never Gonna Give You Up. Now nudging 40 years on and after time away from the spotlight, Rick Astley is definitely back and still pulling in the crowds.

On Wednesday night he was the latest musician to headline Cardiff Castle this summer. After a set by those other late '80s/early '90s favourites, The Lightning Seeds, Astley received a huge welcome from his Welsh fans.

Kicking things off with a newer number - Never Gonna Stop - we didn't have to wait for long before we had fan favourite Together Forever which got the crowd warmed up nicely. "Good evening Cardiff," he shouted and then admitted he'd been practising his Welsh before going on stage but he was "so rubbish" he decided not to attempt any phrases.

But we forgave him as it was the tunes we were after. While many established artists often fill the first part of the show with new music leaving fans hanging until the end for the hits, Astley mixed them up so that more recent tracks like Beautiful Life were quickly followed by '80s faves like It Would Take A Strong Strong Man.

Astley - who was part of the Stock Aitken and Waterman hit factory when he burst onto the music scene - was never one of the '80s cool boys. Instead he was a squeaky clean Lancashire lad whom the mams loved.

But there's definitely a cheeky edge to him and that was apparent in Cardiff as he bantered with the crowd and brought us his own versions of tracks you would never have put the '80s Astley with, such as the AC/DC classic Highway To Hell which saw him playing the drums too.

There were also some great mash ups of Astley favourites with popular numbers from other bands including Dippin My Feet with the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up, She Wants To Dance With Me with Lizzo's Juice and Whenever You Need Somebody with Good Times from Chic.

His distinctive voice is still strong and he was superbly supported by his band and two backing singers who got to really show off their talents during the 1991 ballad Cry For Help.

It's now eight years since Astley, 58, was encouraged out of retirement after Never Gonna Give You Up enjoyed a bizarre second life as an internet meme, Rickrolling. It seems that he's enjoying every moment of his return to the spotlight - and his fans certainly are too.

Karen Price


After shooting to fame on the X-Factor in 2008 JLS quickly won their way into the hearts of many fans. Many of those fans descended on Cardiff Castle on Sunday, July 7 to see the band bring their Summer Hits Tour to the iconic landmark. Aston Merrygold, Oritsé Williams, Marvin Humes, and JB Gill, brought energy, fun and impressive dance moves by the bucket load to Cardiff Castle.

Bursting onto the stage with Eyes Wide Shut they delighted crowds with some of their best hits including Hottest Girl in the World, One Shot, The Club Is Alive and of course, Everybody in Love. Poking jokes out of Martin nearing 40, the band performed with effortless ease and were easily very impressive dancers as well as singers.

At one point Aston was flipped into the air and all four of them did dance moves that were enough to have me enjoying the show while also getting slightly hot under the collar. Put it this way, these men can dance.

One of my favourite moments of the set was the DJ Set Magamix which had the whole crowd jumping and loving every moment - it was just like being in your favourite club but outside in the stunning setting of the castle. Getting into the spirit Marvin put on a fake Welsh accent and told the crowd they had "special memories in Cardiff" and that JB was "basically Welsh, he loves the Welsh ladies."

Overall JLS put on a very, very, good show that I didn't want to finish by the end. They impressed with their dance moves, hit every note and knew exactly how to make sure that the crowd loved every moment.

Steph Colderick

The National

For over two decades The National have built a reputation as ‘sad dad’ darlings for their artful, thoughtful brand of rock. The Ohio five-piece have been thrust further into the mainstream in recent years owing to guitarist Aaron Dessner’s work with Taylor Swift but the younger and mostly female Swifties were mostly absent at Cardiff Castle on Wednesday, July 3, where the band delivered a raw, euphoric set to bearded middle-aged men and couples alike.

“In the time of kings there was a fool… Shall we keep going with that?” bespectacled frontman Matt Berninger, dressed in funereal black, muttered moments after coming onstage, the first of many attempts at stage banter that trail off.

The singer is delightfully awkward – at one point he tells the crowd he was conceived in a castle in Cincinnati before bringing up hamburgers apropos of nothing, really – but as a frontman he is energetic and funny. Twirling and gesturing furiously, he barely stopped during a two-hour long set that peppered highlights from albums High Violet and Boxer with cuts from 2023’s pair of albums First Two Pages of Frankenstein and Laugh Track.

During England Berninger ventured far into the crowd – spare a thought for the roadie holding onto that impossibly long mic lead – pounded his head against the amps and shared vocal duties with the dedicated front row fans.

The dad dancing and jumping around aside, The National’s music has always brimmed with sorrow and despair; songs about ageing, getting older and becoming aware of the deals we make and the things we forgo as we leave our youth behind. They’re also about being aware of your insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

The National on stage
Over to you, Cardiff! -Credit:Ryan O'Neill

While it might sound a bit heavy, The National approach these subjects with depth, honesty and humour that packs a real punch live. The emotionally charged Apartment Story has extra bite in its guitars while the tender I Need My Girl, delivered in Berninger’s trademark baritone, was more than enough to serenade couples around the castle grounds.

Bloodbuzz Ohio – the band’s closest thing to a smash hit – left Berninger open-mouthed at the crowd’s reaction and Fake Empire, sung after he spoke about the difficult political situation in the US, felt particularly poignant on the eve of a UK general election.

The National have always embraced their nerdiness – even releasing their own ‘sad dad’ merchandise in recent years – but their humour and energy make even the heavier topics feel hopeful. Anyone who watched Coldplay’s headlining Glastonbury set last weekend will have seen the band’s tendency to lean into good vibes and optimism. You won’t find such cosiness at a National show, but they’re both perfect examples of how music can sucker-punch you and hit you in the gut in very different ways.

As the light faded Berninger, who overcame his own period of post-pandemic depression that almost broke up the band, playfully rubbed a security guard's head, piled audience members onto his head like dominos, and charged at the barriers once more during an exuberant Mr November. The night was capped off with the sombre About Today, a resigned, triumphant swansong that should remind anyone present that there is comfort in acknowledging the little failures we grieve, loves lost, the people we’ve lost touch with and the small things we still hope to achieve before time runs out.

Ryan O'Neill

The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer

The alternative scene of 90s America pitched up at Cardiff Castle on Friday as The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer took to a rain sodden stage in the Welsh capital

Draped in a black-and-white dress and eye make-up donned, Pumpkins singer, guitarist and auteur Billy Corgan continues to spit angst and rage into the microphone as he did in the band's grungey heyday. But these days he does it with a smile on his face.

And it turns out Billy is Welsh, or so he claimed with tongue firmly in cheek. Turning to guitarist James Iha, the Chicago rocker said: "You know I did a DNA test. I am part Welsh." Without missing a beat, Iha chimed back: "I've done a DNA test as well and I'm part Welsh." To which Corgan responded: "Amazing, maybe we're related."

It was also revealed the Pumpkins had played Cardiff decades ago in 1993, but Iha admitted had no memory of the gig. Corgan said: "None of these people were born then and they hadn't heard of Oasis yet."

The heavy lifting of the night's setlist was pillared by the grunge act's classic albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, with hits Today, Disarm, 1979, Tonight Tonight, Bullet with Butterfly Wings and fan favourite Mayonnaise drawing the biggest crowd reactions. But less warmly received were the five songs from the Pumpkins' latest album Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.

Weezer also produced a set of classic-tracks with the River Cuomo fronted slacker outfit pumping out Say It Ain't So, Island In The Sun, Beverly Hills, Hash Pipe, The Good Life and closer Buddy Holly. They even gave a nod to the joint-headliner by covering Hole's Celebrity Skin, co-written by Billy Corgan.

Marking the last leg of their UK tour and perhaps missing the West Coast sunshine amongst the Welsh rain, River told the crowd: "We're the Weezers from sunny southern California and we're just trying to survive here."

Philip Dewey