- 04 Jun 19
It was a special night indeed when Madness – supported by Lightning Seeds and Something Happens – brought their wonderful blend of ska, rocksteady and pop to Dun Laoghaire pier (or thereabouts!). So good were they that they should be made honorary citizens of the old borough of Kingstown!
Pretty much everything was perfect tonight; the location on the waterfront, the good-humoured crowd, well run beer stalls, easy access with hassle-free public transport via DART. Add in a June Bank Holiday weekend and you have the makings of a guaranteed, skanking good time. And no better crew than Madness to provide the centrepiece.
Celebrating forty years on the go, Camden Town’s master purveyors of rocksteady, pop, ska and beyond know how to throw a party and a half. The NW5 Nutty Boys offer up a joyous, life-affirming evening by dint of an unmatched back catalogue (21 top 20 hits), a mission to entertain with humility and humour, and stellar musicianship to boot.
Earlier, Lightning Seeds performed a hugely enjoyable set with their sophisticated Brit-pop hits ‘Pure’, ‘Life of Riley’ and ‘Lucky You’ going down well, along with their their terrific take on The Byrds’ ‘You Showed Me’ – a real highlight. Meanwhile, local heroes Something Happens (with Tom Dunne back in the frame following his recent layoff) kicked things off with their usual swagger.
The already healthy crowd had swelled to capacity by 9pm and, to a raucous welcome, no less than ten musicians arrive out on stage: Madness indeed! That big, heavy, heavy, monster sound included a three-man brass section plus the purple-suited, fez-topped tenor sax man Lee Thompson playing foil to frontman Suggs. A man of carefully chosen words Suggs didn’t seem too bothered by the smoke wafting towards the stage or, as he described “a delicious blend of burnt burgers and skunk.”
The hits came one after the other. You forget just how many gems Madness have crafted, until they keep on coming: ‘One Step Beyond’, ‘Embarrassment’, and ‘My Girl’ arrive early in the set with the jerky rhythms of the slightly lesser known ‘Wings Of A Dove’ sounding fresher than ever. Just when you think they might be peaking too early and running out of hits, they grab a handful more out of the bag.
It was impossible to stand still and copious showers of beer shot skywards during the likes of ‘House of Fun’ and ‘Baggy Trousers’ and, despite the vintage of most of these tunes, there was little sign of going-through-the-motions. Personal highlights came in the shape of the bouncy, Motown-ish ‘The Sun and The Rain’ and the poignant, Kinks-like ‘One Better Day’ – surely their finest hour on record? Crowd favourite was without doubt ‘It Must Be Love’, their better-than-the-original rendition of Labi Siffre’s 1971 folk-pop tune, which must have been heard in Howth, given the massed choir singalong.
“You’re still here?” Suggs declared after a heady run through their theme song, Prince Buster’s ‘Madness (They call it Madness)’. “Does anyone have a Ferry timetable?” he asks, before they bow out with ‘Night Boat To Cairo’, the light summer drizzle which had stayed away ‘till now providing a suitably atmospheric backdrop.
A fine way to end a brilliant night’s music. Give the freedom of the village to these guys!