By Madness’ usual standards, this must surely have been an intimate club show, a lay-by stop on the way to Belladrum Tartan Heart near Inverness over the weekend.
Madness | Rating: **** | Corn Exchange, Edinburgh
It certainly felt that way from a vantage point amid the audience, with the crowd tightly packed in and going for it on this muggy summer’s night. It looked like a majority of them might have been old enough to remember this band’s first flush of fame – in which case, well done to them for still partying like it was 1979 – but it didn’t appear that way from where Suggs was standing.
“You’re all shapes and sizes, all ages,” he marvelled at the front row, alighting on one young lad. “Please tell me you’re getting somewhere at school… because otherwise you’ll turn out like our sax player.” They aren’t a band who take themselves too seriously, swearily having a dig at one another, allowing guitarist Chris Foreman to take a tuneless but spirited bash at AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and bringing out a piper before the encore to blast out an uproariously received Flower of Scotland.
This fiesta of mugging managed to cannily disguise the undeniable quality of what was happening, cycling through pitch-perfect poignancy with Wings of a Dove and It Must Be Love, and committed rowdiness in a slew of their hits, from The Prince to House of Fun and the closing Night Boat to Cairo. The impressive lineage they fit into was also explored, with bursts of Max Romeo’s I Chase the Devil, their spiritual mentor Prince Buster and – most unlikely of all – The Fall’s Mark E Smith with Suggs’ spat-out “Mr Pharmacist-ah” at the end of Baggy Trousers. It was, as the singer noted, “a joyful evening”.