It’s unfortunate that Madness, through no fault of their own, have always attracted a small yet vocal minority of fans who might best be described as boorish, intimidating, beer-bellied idiots. Most of the fez-wearing audience at this show were here to enjoy a festive soiree with one of Britain’s best-loved bands, but for many us hemmed into the standing-room section, the evening was marred by booze-fuelled skirmishes which had to be broken up by security staff.
SSE Hydro, Glasgow
The Nutty Boys have never courted aggression – indeed, they’ve always come across as utterly benign – so one must assume that this antisocial sub-section of their audience has never noticed the thick seam of sensitivity coursing through the band’s music.
As if to remind us that there was always more to them than the cartoon knockabout image familiar from those classic Eighties videos, the first half of their set was boldly populated by many of the darker, more melancholy highlights from their sainted songbook.
Despite the celebratory presence of Wings of a Dove, House of Fun and floor-jumping tributes to recently departed Ska pioneer Prince Buster – a major influence on their original sound – the mood was defined by downbeat gems such as Grey Day and the tear-jerking Yesterday’s Men.
Maybe that’s what triggered those flailing flashes of aggression in the crowd: drunk, ageing, cannonball-shaped men don’t wish to be confronted by the nuanced realities of existence. The humanity of Madness is lost on them, because they’re simply too scared of finding it.