Madness – Live Review – The Piece Hall, Halifax
By Steve Crabtree, June 2023
The arrival of the Live at The Piece Hall season every year is excitedly anticipated and celebrated by thousands of us in Halifax. It’s one of the best things about the arrival of summer, and in the hours leading up to the first show, something happens in the town.
The streets, the bars and the eateries in and around Halifax come alive. Brimming with upbeat energy and excitement, creating a vibrant atmosphere that is hard to beat.
And it is the iconic British band Madness who are first up to kick the season off. With a sell-out show on a warm Friday evening, everywhere you go in Halifax is abuzz with chatter, laughter, and a sense of camaraderie. It’s become a familiar sight and feel that we locals have come to embrace and cherish.
Stepping into the venue, greeted us with much of the same spirit. The packed Piece Hall was loving the funky tunes of Stone Foundation, who were delivering one of the best support performances I’ve witnessed. And the crowd had already secured their viewing spots, when the main men of Madness took the stage at 8:55pm, to an eruption of applause and cheers.
Without wasting a moment, they launch into a stellar set. “Don’t watch that… watch this…” Suggs bellows into the mic, as ‘One Step Beyond’ floods out into the courtyard. That is quickly followed up with the infectious groove of ‘Embarrassment.’ From the off, the crowd’s energy is up, and the band feed off it.
Madness are sounding fantastic on this year’s bigger stage and bigger sound system. And, although renowned for their chart-topping hits and cherished for their nostalgia-inducing performances, they prove that they are far from complacent when it comes to their musical repertoire. While their ’80s classics continue to charm audiences, they effortlessly weave in newer tracks like ‘NW5’ and ‘Baby Burglar’.
It’s a testament to Madness’ evolution over the last 40+ years that both longtime fans and newcomers are treated to a night of pure enjoyment and great music. ‘Wings of a Dove’ proves a big hit with the audience. Is anyone NOT joining in with the “Woah, Woahs”? And with the infectious carnival-energy of ‘Return of the Los Palmas 7’ paired with the summery feel of ‘Lovestruck’, the band are giving us everything.
The show is going beyond what people are expecting, and to add to the atmosphere the weather couldn’t be more cooperative. This summer evening is blessed with sunshine and clear skies. And The Piece Hall, steeped in history and architectural perfection, provides a unique backdrop for music events. It adds a touch of charm to whatever happens here. For Madness, the acoustics of the open-air venue are exceptional.
“The spirit of Madness”
It isn’t long before the real big-hitters are reaching our ear drums. The sheer fun of ‘Baggy Trousers’ has the crowd bouncing in unison. And a Madness show could not be complete without those timeless favourites ‘Our House’ and ‘House of Fun’. Moments of pure nostalgia created for the fans right there. Speaking of the fans, many fully embrace the spirit of Madness. Everywhere you look, people have donned ska outfits, while others proudly sport the signature fez. This display of fandom adds even more to the feel of the night.
As the main set draws to a close, the band send waves of euphoria through The Piece Hall with the soulful rendition of ‘It Must Be Love’. But Madness aren’t quite finished. Returning for an encore, they treat fans to a two-song finale that includs the anthemic ‘Madness’ and the ska-infused frenzy of ‘Night Boat to Cairo’. The crowd erupt in cheers and applause. Appreciation expressed for the unforgettable show they’ve just seen.
Madness did a great job. With six of the original seven members of the group, they deliver a brilliant night of ska and summer vibes. Combined with the incredible venue, fantastic weather, and an electric atmosphere, we had an evening we’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
The Live At The Piece Hall season is well and truly back. And thanks to Madness, oh… what fun we had.
images: Cuffe and Taylor/The Piece Hall