MADNESS remain the party band of choice for men of a certain age and the jauntiness and irreverence of their pop ska sound has aged far better than some in their audience – many a middle-aged bald pate was conveniently covered by a novelty fez purchased from the merchandise stall as the band celebrated nigh on 40 years of knees-up nutterdom.
But while they were still happy to play up to the Nutty Boy image, encouraging their fans to take up the exaggerated spoken word intro to their hyper cover of Prince Buster’s One Step Beyond, there were understated layers to their lyrical portraits of London street life.
Madness, Hydro, Glasgow ***
Brexit Britain has thrown up any number of alternative targets for the ire of shameful soap opera Embarrassment, while My Girl remains a bittersweet dissection of why men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Mr Apples, from most recent album Can’t Touch Us Now, continued their socially conscious tradition with a character study of how power perverts.
In a wide-ranging set, the band rooted out an old album track Rise and Fall, stepped right back in time to their debut single The Prince and made a stretched attempt to pass off The Sun and the Rain as a Christmas song with a “jingley bells” version. This was immediately followed with a nostalgic homage to summer holidays and a further tenuous connection to air travel in The Wings of a Dove during which the audience were left to handle the gospel choir breakdown.
Lovestruck, a jaunty exploration of the art of steering drunkenly home by lampposts, has its resonance at this time of year but nothing quite hit the spot like the triumvirate of classics with which they romped up the home straight – House of Fun, the greatest song ever written about purchasing prophylactics, Baggy Trousers, their schooldays fantasia infused with a sliver of darkness, and the affectionate Our Housecompleting the unholy trilogy.
Their beautiful cover of Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love injected a note of sensitivity before a bagpiper (and true Scotsman as it turned out) bridged the gap to the encore and the ultimate skank of Night Boat to Cairo.
Special guests The Fratellis have also been one-dimensionally characterised as the knees-up geezers of Chelsea Dagger, though it remained the most effective musical tool in their support set, cutting through to the back of the hall. - FIONA SHEPHERD