IMAGES BY WARREN MILLAR/WORDS BY LEWIS RIDLEY
Suggs Chatted In A Mock Phone-Box To The Left Hand Side: “I’ve got to go now, I’m in Liverpool and we’re having a party.”
There is an age-old game that anyone that spends time in a place that has music venues plays. On a night where there are numerous gigs taking place, it can be good fun to guess where gig-goers are heading. Of course, you will probably never know if you’re right – but things like, say, hundreds of people in fezzes heading through town on Thursday night, might just help.
Of course, Madness were in town.
The ska icons brought their Ladykillers tour to the M&S Bank Arena and even stood in the queue in the driving rain, the excitement was palpable. This was one of the many rescheduled gigs and therefore must have been a first gig back for many in attendance. They chose a cracker.
Madness are joined on this tour by Squeeze, and the venue was already thronging as they brought out the big guns in Up The Junction, Pulling Mussels and Cool For Cats. Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford still front the outfit, who have had about as many members as there were Fred Perry shirts in the crowd, and they more than warmed us up for the main event. In many ways, they felt like co-headliners.
Part of the reason for that is the staging. The M&S Bank Arena is well-known for its impressive use of screens and backdrop, a mock tube station was on the right of the stage and we were introduced to Madness by way of a phone call, as Suggs chatted in a mock phone-box to the left hand side: “I’ve got to go now, I’m in Liverpool and we’re having a party.”
Down came the curtains and up went the trumpets for One Step Beyond, the opening track of a set laden with what the kids call bangers. Embarrassment, NW5 and My Girl were shortly after as the fezzes and trilbies bobbed in time on the venue floor.
Madness remain evergreen, and are able to distance themselves from some of the other bands of their generation that wearily wheel themselves back out on tour. Their sets are high-energy, they play the classics, they know how to put on a show. Wings of a Dove and Mr Apples featured too, as images of the band were played in windows of a House of Fun that provided the backdrop to the band.
When they return for their encore, it’s Boris Johnson and his accomplices that adorned the screen as the band played Madness. There was time for a quick slagging-off of the government, always important to squeeze in, before final track Night Boat To Cairo ended the night.
There are few better sights than seeing smiling faces leave a gig and head into the night – but smiling faces leaving a gig and heading into the night Madness dancing is probably one of them.
One Step Beyond
Take It or Leave It
The Sun and the Rain
Wings of a Dove
If I Go Mad
Bed and Breakfast Man
Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs cover)
House of Fun