Gig Review: Madness in The 02
Pros:The classics sparkle, the One Step Beyond material particularly. The new songs, in a live setting, sit comfortably alongside the rest. Woody's moustache is hilarious. We could go on...
Cons:The curtains malfunctioned, but that's only a negative for the poor buggers behind it
As Suggs himself said – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Madness have the live set down to a fine art
Fez hats dot the crowd as Madness return to the o2 for a November knees-up. Man Like Me get things started with some soul/ska/jungle/hiphop fusing samples, horns and toasting. It’s entertaining, even if one track is indistinguishable from the last and it all gets a bit Chippendales-boybandish toward the end.
As befitting the most fun band in existence, when Madness take the stage the curtains malfunction. Opener ‘One Step Beyond’ ends, and Suggs calls “Thank you, goodnight!” as the curtains re-close. Half the stage remains obscured, leaving roadies to scramble and eventually succeed – during ‘Embarrassment’ – to yoink it clear. You couldn’t make it up. As ‘The Prince’ follows and Suggs rips the piss, it’s already clear that a good night is in store. The man himself starts ‘My Girl’ with a lone piano before the band kick in. New one ‘My Girl 2’ follows bridging a quarter century, as a plethora of lovely girls adorn the back projection.
A well-chosen selection from their latest album blend nicely with the tried and tested tunes of yore, a seamless set throughout. ‘Bed & Breakfast Man’ and ‘Grey Day’ – “a rambunctious little number” with an extended downbeat instrumental section – provide early highlights along with a jubilant ‘Wings Of A Dove’. Old and new intersperse, with the band “dipping in and out of the space-time continuum” before a bizarre interlude.
Guitarist Chris Foreman downs guitar to inform us we’ve had enough of all that new stuff, before embarking alone on a downright raucous version of Beastie Boys Fight ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’. What follows is proof – as if it were ever needed – that Madness are one of the great singles bands. ‘House Of Fun’ begins the second half of the gig, and the place erupts with the entire balcony upstanding and updancing.
‘Our House’ follows, replete with guitar solo by “the worst rapper in showbiz today”, and a full-throated crowd take the reins for ‘It Must Be Love’ to finish the night off in style. An encore – was there any doubt – ensues with ‘Death Of a Rude Boy’, a fine version that comes to life live just like the earlier new tracks. It’s back to ’79 with ‘Madness’ – that coupling a nice tribute to Prince Buster – and ‘Night Boat To Cairo’. Finally, four young girls invade the stage – Mad-relatives one assumes. “Goodnight Dubliners!” one shouts. She has a lot to learn.