I have been a huge fan of Suggs, famously known as the singer of English ska legends Madness, ever since their inception in the eighties.
After the recent release of his autobiography the man embarked on an extensive one man tour of the UK. 39 dates in just over a month. Quite gruelling for what was essentially a solo show- well he was ably assisted by manservant Deano , his piano/and occasional sound effects. Conversation amongst audience members pre show was mostly focused on what would actually be portrayed on the stage in front of them during the course of the evening. Defining the show at the end of the evening however still proved difficult.
Suffice to say that Suggs outlined his family upbringing through the rough and the smooth. The rise and fall of both him personally and also as part of the band Madness. Utilising pathos, humour and excellent delivery, it proved both a captivating and highly thrilling nights entertainment. After observing Suggs on many stages fronting Madness over the years his comic delivery was apparent even then. Being in the solo spotlight just gave that free reign to be fully exploited. Gathering rave reviews from many major stage critics and publications throughout the tour still didn’t adequately prepare us for the sheer enjoyment.
Touching the depths of personal tragedy through the loss of his father and also his cat on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, we were also presented with many amusing anecdotes of school days and growing up. What proved particularly insightful for me as a huge Madness fan was the personal illustration of the story behind some of the bands most iconic anthems. Songs such as “Baggy Trousers” and “It Must Be Love” where dissected but in a loving and not a brutal or clinical manner. Dipping throughout the performance into the bands extensive back catalogue the songs were referenced directly. These enhanced rather than overshadowed the performance. The songs were not performed in full just light flourishes such as a painter may make as final touches to a painting – light strokes to embellish a masterpiece.
There was some crowd participation but it was through singing along to Madness songs such as “Shut Up” – even the one “heckler” had an amusing shout, which Suggs enjoyed and responded in the same vein of humour, even if it was lost in the acoustics of the upper acheleons of the balcony where I was personally sitting. Contrast this sharply with the drunken shouting which had marred the previous nights performance in Londonderry. With an interlude to give both Suggs and the audience a liquid refreshment break – there was no pause for breath in the comic delivery from the stage. Very engaging show and one that I would have no hesitation in recommending to others. Indeed given the opportunity I would attend again to the exact same show.
The few hours flew by and with Suggs personally declaring the final night of the tour the best, he did seem particularly genuine with his sentiments. This was a rare occasion to gain a little insight into the man behind the Madness. Stepping out of his normal comfort zone of a seven piece band and connecting more on a personal level with his long standing fans and audience rather than on a musical one. Mark Dean, GiggingNI.com