The second song is called ‘Embarrassment’. Now, in the normal critical scheme of things, this would provide the top and tail of the [a]NME[/a] review of a gig by the reformed [a]Madness[/a]. You don’t have to be mad to work here, just desperate, right?
So it initially appears, as they goof their way onstage and Suggs asks not entirely ironically, “Do you remember us?” For the first few songs a couple of them are clearly wondering what they’re doing here, like uncles cajoled into doing their party turn at a family wedding. But for all the questionable charade of these flapping-around-40 family men still pretending to be nutty boys, there comes a point, around the bit when they play ‘House Of Fun’, when all such cynicism evaporates and you realise why this band should still be indulged, if not still as a national treasure, then at least as a beloved part of a generation’s cultural furniture, one of those British entertainment cornerstones like Eric & Ernie‘s Christmas special.
More importantly, you can do that without feeling like a sentimental old twat tonight, because they sound like a noble descendent of the punky, funky scene they came out of 20 years ago. Songs like ‘Baggy Trousers’ (the alternative Grange Hill theme for ’80s kids), ‘Nightboat To Cairo’ and the inevitably glorious encore ‘One Step Beyond’ are played without an ounce of flab or concession to light entertainment. It’s still music to moonstomp to. Admittedly, when they promoted this Shelter benefit gig as being in ‘a small club’, they meant ‘it’s got a roof’. But this is not an arena, and on nights like this it still feels more like a laugh with your mates than worship from afar.
Sorry for that break in normal transmission. Tomorrow we will greet the Spandau Ballet reunion tour with both barrels. Meanwhile, bollocks to embarrassment – welcome back to the house of fun. Again.