Madness – Live Review – Sheffield Utilita Arena
By Graham Clark, December 2023
With their latest album Theatre of the Absurd presents C’est la Vie recently debuting at Number One on the album chart, Madness was in a celebratory mood as they arrived on stage at Sheffield Arena.
The band, along with The Specials, were at the forefront of the ska movement in the early eighties that influenced a whole generation. Whilst many of those attended the Sheffield gig, the range of Madness’ music has helped them to appeal to a younger audience too. “Tonight, we are going to visit the past, present and future,” stated lead singer Graham McPherson, more commonly known as Suggs.
The songs from the new album are darker and more contemplative than the usual upbeat fayre associated with the band. Wisely choosing to intesperse the old songs amongst the new was a good decision – the audience were always only two songs away from one of the group’s big hits. Whilst it might have seemed like a dilemma with their older fans only wanting to hear the big hits from the bands classic period, the newer songs, whilst less frantic still have an enduring appeal.
‘Baby Burglar’ highlights petty crime whilst ‘In My Street’ harks back to a time when life was far simpler. Guitarist Chris Foreman took the opportunity to entertain the audience with his version of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me which proved why Suggs is the lead singer of the band and not Foreman!
From then on, the hits arrived in quick succession and the party had begun: ‘House of Fun’ retained the jolliness of the 1982 hit, ‘Baggy Trousers’ took everyone back to their schooldays with Suggs wisely informing the younger members of the audience to “get an education, or you will end up like him” as he pointed to Thompson.
Dedicating The Specials’ ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ to “an old friend”, namely the late Terry Hall, was a thoughtful moment in an otherwise mostly upbeat affair. As the fans lifted their Fez hats in the air for ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ the party drew to a close. You must take your hat off to Madness for continuing to provide their fans with a night as entertaining and exuberant as this. Long may the Madness continue.