Music review: Madness, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

“ON THIS very day 40 years, ago seven spotty teenagers turned up at Television Centre to perform on Top of the Pops,” said Suggs, clearly well past the stage where vanity will prevent him from reminiscing about the olden days. “I believe the promoters sold some of you tickets saying they were for the Spice Girls reunion – now, I’m not saying we’re prettier than them…”

Suggs was in reminiscent mood at the Madness concert in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Picture:  Neil Hanna
Suggs was in reminiscent mood at the Madness concert in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

Madness, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh ***

For Suggs and the rest of the band, the four intervening decades have passed in a largely unchanging (Suggs’ brief solo career aside) haze of similar banter and laddish camaraderie, and they’re much beloved for it; not just by original fans of the ska-pop sound which they took further into the mainstream than most, but also by younger generations for whom their songs have endured.

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With the bustle of the weekend dying down and the Tattoo fireworks taking a break for the evening, there was something about Sunday night’s final Summer Sessions gig of 2019 which felt like a nice way to get over a hangover, with the warmth and familiarity of One Step Beyond, Embarrassment, My Girl and Wings of a Dove seeping once more into the hearts of their fans.

The crescendo arrived at the end – as we knew it would – with a flurry of some of the 1980s’ most universal pop music; House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and It Must Be Love all in a row, before Madness and Night Boat to Cairo carried the encore on an energetic high. Yet the intervening years have borne much music which hasn’t hit quite such heights, and – as enjoyable as the political elements of The Bullingdon Boys and Mr Apples were – the middle third of the show sagged a little beneath that unfamiliarity.

DAVID POLLOCK