Review: Madness

Madness frontman Suggs. Picture: Getty
Madness frontman Suggs. Picture: Getty
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JUDGING by the Sta Press trousers, Harrington jackets and pork pie hats on show, no-one was likely to confuse the main attraction at the Corn Exchange with a Fringe show, but for the avoidance of doubt, Suggs made it clear from the start: “For those of you have come for the avant garde mime festival... that’s not us. This is Madness.”

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Corn Exchange, New Market Road

This was a promise, and boy, was it fulfilled as the band launched into a barnstorming rendition of Embarrassment.

If any of us had doubts about revisiting our youth – and I did, keen as I was to preserve the precious memory of my first ever gig, Madness at the Playhouse in 1983 - they were dispelled in an instant, as a night of joyous celebration began to unfold

Madness were at their peak 35 years ago, but they don’t look much different today, save for a few extra pounds here and there.

It was the audience who gave the game away, many of us looking like the last three decades had been lives lived hard. And these are the ones who have made it this far.

But none of the crowd had forgotten how to party, with the middle aged audience (and that’s being generous) dancing from start to finish. One who couldn’t dance waved a crutch to the ska beat instead. The rest of us would have done the same, if we had to.

“Edinburger... it’s nice to see you,” said Suggs, “all shapes, all sizes, all ages.” Spot on.

A line in Embarrassment about “feeling twice as older” became “three, four, five times older” but the trick Madness pull off is to make us all feel so much younger again. Genius.

Their other great strength is the fact that the band is the original line-up, rather than a well-known lead singer supported by new recruits or session musicians.

Only Chas Smash – now Cathal Smyth - was absent, and I shouldn’t be harsh, but he was always the spare part. That’s not to say he wasn’t missed, especially on One Step Beyond, which arrived without his trademark ‘hey you, don’t watch that, watch this’ introduction.

Just about all the other hits were there – My Girl took us right back to the start, written by Edinburgh-born keyboard player Mike Barson, then there was Our House, Baggy Trousers, Shut Up, Wings of a Dove, House of Fun. The Prince, The Sun and The Rain, and It Must Be Love.

The years might have fallen away, but the night seemed to last just a moment. The band had saved a show-stopper for last: Night Boat To Cairo. The hall was awash with bobbing fezzes, and even a pith helmet. It was a sensational end to a truly unforgettable night, that no-one wanted to end.

And that precious memory of 1983? Intact. Thank you Madness. After all these years, I never thought I’d feel this way, the way I feel, about you.