Must be love: Nutty Boys still de­liver

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Dave Simp­son

Mad­ness First Di­rect Arena, Leeds ★★★★☆

Mad­ness’s singer Suggs walks on stage and says: “Hey you!” He doesn’t need to say any­thing else – the arena au­di­ence yell back, “Don’t watch that, watch this! This is the heavy, heavy mon­ster sound …” When the crowd reach the words “one step be­yond”, Lee Thomp­son’s sax tears into the in­tro of the Prince Buster cover, as it must have done thou­sands of times be­fore.

That an arena full of peo­ple of all ages (many wear­ing a Mad­ness fez) know ev­ery word of the in­tro to a 1979 sin­gle says ev­ery­thing about the es­teem in which the Cam­den Nutty Boys are held. They’re a Bri­tish pop in­sti­tu­tion with a rep­u­ta­tion and the core of the setlist is still based on their 1979-86 run of 21 Top 20 hits. And why not? Few bands have had such a Mi­das touch that gi­ant hits such as Em­bar­rass­ment, The Prince and a lovely re­worked My Girl could ap­pear within the first six songs. They can af­ford to con­stantly shuf­fle the setlist and leave sev­eral whop­pers out en­tirely.

Mad­ness are far more than a nos­tal­gia act, though. Suggs may joke that 2016’s Mr Ap­ples, a darkly en­ter­tain­ing tale of an up­tight cit­i­zen who se­cretly vis­its seedy clubs, was “No 1 in Lithua­nia”, but that and the 2008 Ken­tish Town homage NW5 have be­come muchloved live favourites.

Old or new, the songs blend ska, pop and Bri­tish hu­mour to doc­u­ment a chang­ing Bri­tain. In My Street seems to re­visit the fam­ily home of Our House, to find it full of teenagers “get­ting off their heads”. The 1982 smash it­self ap­pears in an epic six-song fi­nale in­clud­ing It Must Be Love and an up­roar­i­ous Baggy Trousers. “Are we still here?” jokes Suggs. Long may they re­main.

At Metro Ra­dio Arena, New­cas­tle, tonight; then tour­ing

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