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Madness + Caravana Sun @ Fremantle Arts Centre – 10/04/17 (Live Review)

“Always look on the bright side of life”

It’s an adage that fans of Madness adhere to greatly. And as the UK ska poppers made a welcome return to our shores for the first time since 2009’s V Festival the faithful turned out in hordes to beat the Monday blues and let off some steam under the light of the full moon.

Sydneysiders Caravana Sun warmed the crowd up a little with some acoustic gypsy hippiness tinged with some reggae and folky numbers. Possibly a more subdued and laid back opener than most expected the band, using borrowed instruments for their set, received a generally positive response as the masses waited patiently for the main event or used their set as an opportunity to hit the bar and get a couple under their belts in anticipation of the frolicking that would shortly ensue.

It was certainly hard not to walk past anyone wearing either a fez, or sunglasses, or indeed both, in the crowd and as the stage darkened there was a collective roar of welcome as Madness burst onto the stage and launched into Can’t Touch Us Now, the first of half a dozen tracks comprising their latest album of the same name. Immediately it was band leader Suggs who had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand and his vocal delivery remained almost unchanged from its cheeky tones from those records. Dressed in sharp suit and sunglasses he lead the band through hits like Embarrassment early on in the set, the crowd loving every moment. “People on prescription medication please make your way quietly to the exit” he warned as a serious strobe light show accompanied The Prince in tribute to the late Prince Buster who gave the band their name and some of their early hits as well. “We are not One Direction, we are not Take That, we’re not even Kylie Minogue, we are MADNESS!!” he told the sold out crowd before launching into NW5, and all through their set a backdrop with the group’s name lit up was displayed. Indeed the entire light show throughout the night was pretty phenomenal and added a real touch of flair to the proceedings.

Madness – photo by Klowe Photography

My Girl proved once and for all that well beyond the confines of the comedic ska they are most well known for, Madness are the purveyors of that rarest of entities, the near perfect pop song. These are truly singalong choruses that come from a place that’s indefinable, you just know that they’re so damn good all you can do is get swept away in how bloody brilliant they are. Newer songs like Blackbird – about the late Amy Winehouse – sat well in balance with older more familiar tunes like Cardiac Arrest and Grey Day showing that they certainly haven’t lost their touch in any way.

It was at this point in the night when things took a slightly surreal turn, when guitarist Chris Foreman took over the microphone to belt out a ragged Highway To Hell inspired by an afternoon visit to the statue of Bon Scott that adorns the Fremantle foreshore. It was dodgy karaoke at best. He then attempted vainly to incite the crowd into a call and response of “C’mon Aussie C’mon” perhaps unaware that a good percentage of the crowd were in fact ex pat Brits. Thankfully ‘normality’ was restored shortly after by the inspired lunacy of One Step Beyond that had most of the crowd dancing crazily. From there it was pretty much hit after hit as House Of Fun, Baggy Trousers and the still sublime Our House gave fans plenty of fuel to dance and sing along to, and those that were inclined felt an irresistible pull towards gyrating like a bunch of emus on acid. It Must Be Love closed out the main set, all thew while people around wrapped arms around each other and proclaimed endearments to each other. A touching moment.

Madness – photo by Klowe Photography

Returning to the stage to rapturous cheers and applause they willingly obliged once more with an encore of Mr Apples and the aforementioned Mr Buster’s Madness before the baritone sax heralded the arrival of Night Boat To Cairo and a bunch of fez wearing kids hit the stage to join the band in one last song as all around us the crowd danced maniacally once more.

Always fun, always engaging and just plain old damn good fun, all hail Madness the lords of ska pop.

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