THIS old music hall seemed somehow the most fitting choice of venue in which to stage Madness frontman Suggs’s Scottish leg of his musical spoken word show, subtitled My Life in Words.
Pavilion Theatre Glasgow
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With just one accompanying musician – pianist, guitarist and occasional storytelling foil Deano – alongside him, Suggs employed the manner and stylised delivery of an old-fashioned variety comedian to deliver an insightful and occasionally very funny précis of his public and personal story so far.
On the one hand, the show was simply a run-down of his career highs and lows, and this element was both the most crowd-pleasing and the most predictably mundane. Often it would be reduced to just an empty litany of “and then I did this” type hagiography, with big applause every time he mentioned another hit or favourite gig from an audience perhaps more used to watching Suggs (real name Graham McPherson) in a concert venue amidst a crowd going wild. Yet songs like Shut Up, his solo cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecilia and It Must Be Love were well-chosen, and in this setting his voice was a more potent story-telling instrument than any number of well-rehearsed words.
The real meat of the show came all-too-infrequently, with rich reminiscences of discovering rock ’n’ roll in the record shops of Camden, or trying to make an emotional connection with the memory of his long-dead and drug-troubled father. In amongst the Tommy Cooper impressions and knowing asides to his career, the impression is that building up more of these wonderful excerpts for their own sake might have turned a decent, crowd-pleasing show into a really special one.