Review: Madness, TK Maxx Summer Sessions, Guildhall Square, Southampton

Review: Madness, TK Maxx Summer Sessions, Guildhall Square, Southampton

By Nick Mabey.

“Well if this is madness then I know I’m filled with gladness”.

Sums it up really. The lyric from their eponymous first-album song may not have arrived until the encore but it was present throughout the evening. Madness have always been a reminder to not take life, or ourselves, too seriously. They can bring sunshine to the greyest of days, and did so in Guildhall Square, treating an exuberant crowd to most of their hits and plenty of north London banter.

Welcomed on stage to the Thunderbirds theme tune, accompanied by typically comic visuals, the band romped through three classics before saying hello. One Step Beyond and The Prince came either side of Embarrassment, during which “I’m feeling twice as older” felt like a heartfelt chant from both the band and, let’s say, more senior members of the audience. Actually, doing the maths I realised that I was nearly ‘three times as older’ as when I first saw them at the Gaumont, and I wasn’t the only ex-nutty boy creaking where once I bounced.

Having said that, the crowd included loads of younger folk and, surprisingly according to lead singer Suggs, lots of women, and they seemed to be enjoying the newer material.  C’est La Vie, the title track of their latest album was a pleasing hark back to their earlier Ska roots. A personal favourite, the bittersweet 2007 song NW5 – “I would give you everything, for just that smile you bring, for just that song to sing” – seemed to be particularly well received. This and the ensuing My Girl reminded me that the band have always been able to deliver pathos alongside the cheeky chappie fun.

Much of the stage humour was provided by Suggs and saxophonist, Lee Thompson, whose gentle sparring with the audience and each other seemed genuine and certainly not forty-five years old. Guitarist Chris Foreman, as well as keeping us informed of the England v Serbia football score, added to the chaos later by offering a karaoke version of Living on a Prayer while the band disappeared for ‘a cup of tea’.

After this interlude the 80’s hits just kept coming. “There’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud.” Our House had the whole crowd going wild, and the set came to a riotous, anthemic end with I Must Be Love. “I knew that it’s you I need to take the blues away” sums up perfectly how most fans feel about Madness.

Suggs, Barso, Kix, Chrissy Boy, Woody and Bedders may have funny nicknames and cheeky grins but they are also excellent musicians and every song was delivered with class and quality.  Back on stage for the encore, Madness and the classic Night Boat to Cairo allowed the Nutty Boys to finish with a flourish, reminding everyone of their Ska roots, eccentric pop songs (“It’s just gone noon, half past monsoon”) and outstanding musical ability.

“Oh what fun we had”.  Trousers may not be as baggy as they were back in the day but the feel good factor remained the same.  As the band left the stage the PA pumped out Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and the crowd merrily dispersed singing along to the chorus.  

If you want to see Madness on their 2024 C’est La Vie tour go to their website where you’ll discover they are playing another 15 UK dates over the summer. 

The TK Maxx Summer Sessions at Guildhall Square, Southampton continue for the rest of June.  Check out artists and dates here –

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