WITH a deep, sonorous honk on the saxophone from Lee Thompson, the good ship Madness launched straight into Night Boat To Cairo and, instantaneously, a roomful of balding middle-aged men, many in cheap and nasty merchandise stall fez hats, began bobbing around gleefully like so many dads down the nostalgia disco.
This is the venerable Madness Christmas booze cruise and it didn’t take long for things to get spicy down the front, necessitating a plea from singer Suggs to play nice.
Meanwhile, a gallery of “madheads” were beamed on to the big screens – given that the rollcall included the likes of Rik Mayall, Stanley Kubrick, Albert Einstein, Eric Morecambe and various members of the Carry On team, one presumes that “madhead” is a term of endearment.
Minus his long-term sparring partner Chas Smash – who quit the band shortly before this tour, leaving a nutty dancing-shaped void stage left – Suggs had some filling to do, delivered in the form of droll, oddly poetic scripted intros to their numerous perceptive kitchen sink vignettes, such as My Girl (guy wants a simple life), Lovestruck (guy gets mortal drunk and navigates home by lampposts) and the irrepressible House Of Fun (young guy attempts to purchase prophylactic on reaching age of majority).
The gaps between these guaranteed crowd-pleasers were treated as useful bar/toilet breaks. In a noble but ill-fated attempt to reflect the extent of their career, they resurrected Believe Me, an underwhelming track from their debut album, and unveiled a new song The Last Rag and Bone Man which amounted to a lazy tick list of Madness tropes with its Steptoe gait, nostalgic character study and references to North London boroughs.
Chris “Chrissy Boy” Foreman’s soused cabaret cover of Big Spender was tolerated in the run-up to a home run of their biggest hits, including an ebullient Baggy Trousers and Our House, the latter accompanied by a slideshow of Glasgow buildings and landmarks.
Madness appeared to regard the knowingly cheesy lounge instrumental Return of the Los Palmas 7 as their seduction song, but it was their sincere cover of Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love which inspired a tactile bout of besht-mate bonding before a frenzied encore knees-up comprising their two skanking Prince Buster covers, One Step Beyond and Madness sent the troops home sated.
Seen on 18.12.14