It’s fair to say that 2016 has been a Summer of Madness in Northern Ireland. Normally when you hear such a description, you’re expecting non stop riots. This is a good Madness, and Northern Ireland Madheads had three opportunities to indulge in their favourite band this summer.

In July, the musical Our House had a run at Grand Opera House, while Belsonic offered fans the chance to experience the real thing.

It was the second time that Madness had headlined Belsonic, having appeared at Custom House Square in 2012. Like in 2016, a few days later they were followed by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

There is a tenuous link between Madness and Noel Gallagher, as it was an inebriated Madness (who had just come off stage after performing) who replaced Oasis at short notice in 2009 at the French music festival where a backstage spat resulted in Oasis split.

Madness are always a popular booking at festivals, having done the afternoon legends slot at Glastonbury. Quite impressive for a band in their 50s, as most who get that slot are at an advanced age people watching on TV had thought they were dead.

Madness aren’t dead, but they are down a member, with Chas Smash leaving in 2014.

That loss is evident in the opening song, as he would traditionally kick off a Madness gig with his intro to One Step Beyond, their signature tune. One of many, you could say.

It was Madness first gig in Belfast since December 2014. They have been touring a lot since then. A tour in the summer of 2015 of small to medium sized stadiums missed Belfast, making the delays of the Windsor Park redevelopment even worse. There was Ravenhill as well they could have used.

Madness have been gigging in Belfast since 1979, playing in what Suggs described as “What was left of” The Europa Hotel.

They entered the stage to House Of Fun, before Suggs apologised to those in the audience who were expecting to see Westlife’s comeback tour, before advising those in the audience on medication or of a nervous disposition to look away as Lee Thompson did a saxophone solo during their debut single The Prince, a song which Suggs introduce by pretending he was presenting Top Of The Pops, describing them as “A bunch of hermits from North London”.

Something threw a bra at Lee Thompson. Not the first time that’s happened in Belfast either.

Naturally, there was a lot of dad dancing. Most of it in the crowd. If you can’t be silly at a Madness gig, when can you be silly?

My Girl was performed as a slow ballad, with Suggs over dramatically pretending to cry, before the song was performed as the way we all know and love it.

As is now tradition, we were treated to a Chris Foreman, billed as the best guitarist in Madness, karaoke set. He said he had taken requests from people, and had to disappoint them, that he would continue his karaoke.

Foreman recalled a walk around Belfast earlier that day when he asked what the name of the boat parked at the docks was. When told it was Bryan, he replied “like Bryan Ferry?”

The boat parked could be seen from the stage. It was a night boat to Scotland, rather than going to Cairo.

Fans were treated to Foreman singing his own version of Living On A Prayer by Bon Jovi.

When performing The Sun and the Rain, the weather obliged. Sort of. We got rain, but no sun.

It was a hit filled show, One Step Beyond was snuck in mid show, alongside Embarrassment, Wings Of A Dove, Shut Up, Our House and It Must Be Love, while Madness and Night Boat To Cairo were performed in the encore.

It typical Madness fashion, it was utterly unpredictable.

Suggs will be in Northern Ireland next Saturday, heading to Bangor to talk about his career as part of Open House Festival.

If their live shows follow the current pattern (Madness last three Belfast gigs have been 2012, 2014 and now 2016) we can expect to see them back in 2018.

Can’t wait.

Photo Album

See Also

Madness live at The Odyssey 2014

Madness live at The Odyssey 2014 Photo Album

Madness live at Custom House Square 2012

Madness live at Custom House Square 2012 Photo Album


Fez sales experienced a boost in Belfast on Monday night, which could only mean one thing – Madness were in town.

It was their first Belfast gig since Belsonic in 2012. It was the only time i’d seen Madness play live, a life ambition realised.

They were no strangers to The Odyssey, having played there in 2007 and 2009. For varying reasons, I missed both gigs. I’m already making up for lost Madness time having not been born/been a baby during their original chart run.

Fittingly, in East Belfast, with the Titanic Shipyards nearby, the gig got off to a maritime start, with the band opening with Night Boat To Cairo, and the end of which Suggs commented “Thank you Belfast, you’ve been wonderful. Good night”. Thankfully, he was only joking.

Madness went through their back catalogue, obviously playing hits such as Embarrassment, Sun and the Rain, The Prince, Bed and Breakfast Man, Shut Up, My Girl, House Of Fun, Baggy Trousers and It Must Be Love, and modern classics such as Lovestruck, My Girl II and NW5.

Lovestruck is one of my favourite songs, their 1999 comeback single, which reached top ten. I loved that I got to see Madness on Top Of The Pops, and in the charts as a teenager.

Suggs stepped aside for Return Of The Las Palmas Seven, letting Lee Thompson (Saxophone) and Chris Foreman (Guitar) take the limelight. Big mistake, once they got a taste of it, they never let it go.

Thompson was acting the fool, trying to swing his microphone, and continually missing, before jokingly strangling himself, while Foreman got behind the mic to sing his own version of Hey Big Spender.

One young fan, Johnny Campbell, got a special treat, when he joined the band on stage to play Saxophone with them. He came on unnoticed, and it took a while for the audience to realise that there was a kid at primary school age performing with the band.

Before he left the stage (you know, bedtime, school in the morning), Suggs gave him some fatherly advice (although he may be old enough to be his grandfather, albeit a very young grandfather) that he should “stay in school and get an education ……… because you don’t want to end up like Lee Thompson”

During the performance of Our House, the LED Screens in the background showed images of houses in Belfast, and various other landmarks in the city.

One noticable absence, was Chas Smash. I didn’t know he’d left the band until last night (confirming his departure in this Guardian interview)

That would explain why they didn’t open with One Step Beyond.

They did perform One Step Beyond, in the encore, with Suggs just shouting “ONE …… STEP ….. BEYOND!!!” instead of Smash’s “HEY YOU!!! DON’T WATCH THAT!!! WATCH THIS!!!!” intro.

They finished with another Prince Buster cover, Madness, the song that gave them their name, with Suggs signing off by telling the crowd to eat as much as they want over Christmas as they’d had a good aerobic workout from all the dancing.

Madness still proving that they are the nuttiest sound around.

Photo Album

Madness Live At Custom House Square 2012

Madness Live At Custom House Square 2012 Photo Album