LIVE: MADNESS – Fremantle, 10 April, 2017
Madness with Caravãna Sun, Fremantle Arts Centre – Monday, 10 April, 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Stuart McKay
With comic fez’s for sale on the merch desk, a long queue at the bar, and a sell-out crowd for this first instalment of Madness’s two-night Fremantle stand, there was a palpable party atmosphere on this full moon Monday.
Perhaps to keep the excited multitude in check, proceedings kicked off earlier than had been publicised, with Caravãna Sun delivering a bouncy and loud set of rootsy gypsy folk n’ roll with world flavour and hipster hippy cool.
There was never any question about who the crowd were here for, though, and when the lights went down the roar went up for Madness, and the British ska pop legends held them in the palm of their many hands all night long.
Many of the tracks came from their 1979-86 heyday, just as most of the crowd were reliving their youthful adventures of having grown up whilst Madness enjoyed a staggering fifteen top ten UK hits. There was also a liberal smattering of younger faces, unlikely to have been born during the band’s initial incarnation, and a generous peppering of half a dozen songs from excellent new album Can’t Touch Us Now, and a few deeper cuts from their extensive back catalogue.
The snappily suit-and-spats-sporting ten-piece band were razor sharp and as tight as a cat in a jam jar, with singer Suggs in fine, boisterous, music hall voice, and from the band’s name in retro, light bulb style behind them, to a red & green starscape strafed with yellow spotlights, or multicoloured beams of light illuminating rainbows on the beautiful pine trees, the light show is perfectly pitched to enhance the fun, not distract from it.
Anyone wanting solely greatest hits had to soldier on with just a smattering of the biggies for well over an hour, before guitarist Chris Foreman shared an epiphany he’d experienced earlier in the day, when he came across Bon Scott’s statue in Fremantle and decided to perform Highway To Hell. The band weren’t as keen, though, obviously, and left the stage to allow Foreman to croak through over top of a backing track, before exhorting the crowd to join in a ‘C’mon Aussie c’mon’ chant.
“Let’s get on with this shambles,” Suggs announced, taking charge again, and if any of the many Brit expats in the crowd were getting antsy, the launch into the ska-tastic One Step Beyond, from their 1979 debut album, gave them complete all-singing, all-dancing redemption.
This signified a turning point in the show: formerly exuberant but businesslike, the famous Madness cheekiness erupted, with various members contributing banter and the zany sense of humour that always came through so strongly from their video clips in the early days.
From here on it was practically all hits: anyone who can deliver House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and It Must Be Love consecutively is going to bring the house down, the latter, especially beautiful as many lovers threw their arms around each other and expressed their affection – or tried it on with a hopeful new ‘friend.’
These songs are so bouncy, so ingrained in our psyches, that they somehow perfectly embody the wacky fun, frolics and joie de vivre of all of our youth – whether you’re fifty or fifteen, they’re undeniably important.
The encore neatly bookended the band’s career thus far, sounding like a lot less than 38 years has passed between their first and most recent works: Mr Apples, another of the best tracks from the new album, led the path to Prince Buster’s aforementioned Madness, and the irresistibly infectious Night Boat To Cairo.
And so, as Night Boat saw a clutch of children wearing fez’s storm the stage to sing and dance with Suggs, now wearing a sheik’s headdress, it all ended in somehow perfectly appropriate fashion before some heartfelt thanks and goodbyes, and Monty Python playing us out the door with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
Can’t Touch Us Now
Wings of a Dove
The Sun and the Rain
Tomorrow’s Just Another Day
You Are My Everything
Highway To Hell (karaoke)
One Step Beyond
House of Fun
It Must Be Love
Night Boat to Cairo
OUTRO Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE