LOS ANGELES, CA- With Madness’ career spanning five decades, North London’s ska invaders are still kicking hard. Their 13th album, “Theatre of the Absurd presents Cest La Vie,” released in November 2023, was their first studio album to hit the UK No. 1 spot, even ousting Taylor Swift, which speaks volumes about their longevity and musical relevance in British culture and beyond.

Last night, the YouTube Theatre in Los Angeles was brimming with expectant fans, some wearing fezzes and pork pie hats, waiting patiently for a long-awaited night of genre-defining rocksteady bravado.

The Star Wars theme opened their “Theatre of the Absurd,” and Madness emerged as a 10-piece band—a virtually unchanged lineup since 1978, except for Chas Smash leaving the band a few years ago. Still, the nuttiest boys remain: Suggs, Chrissy Boy, Bedders, Thommo, Barso, and Woody (temporarily replaced on this tour), along with additional percussion and a brass section.

Frontman Suggs (Graham McPherson) began the set with 1979’s “One Step Beyond,” making it a knees-up from the get-go. They moved into “Embarrassment,” after which Suggs remarked on members of No Doubt being in attendance, saying that when Madness was first around, No Doubt were “just a twinkle in their grandad’s eyes.” After performing “The Prince” and before “NW5,” he joked, “We just heard now there’s been a bit of a mix-up with the tickets tonight. Some people bought tickets for the Spice Girls’ reunion, which is a shame because they’re so much tougher and better than us.” Each bit of between-song banter was a reminder of his reliably dry take on the absurdity of life, smoothing out a fun evening of dancing to stories of the old days. What Madness may lack in youth, they make up for in musical mastery, each song completely accentuated by their tight, dynamic performance. “Taller Than You Are” kept everyone foot-stomping through the suited and booted nostalgic vigor and tales of mums banging on the ceiling with broomsticks, asking them to shut up. Nodding to the hefty number of English expats in the audience, Suggs perfectly set up “The Sun and the Rain” by saying, “In England, we are uptight. Incapable of expressing our emotions, so we just talk about the weather.”

Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

The new track “C’est La Vie” started with a fiery sax flourish and Suggs’ sharp reflections on aspects of British life. Many of Madness’ tracks seem like vignettes of the everyman trying to find sanity or brawling with the societal lack thereof. While they sprinkled a healthy dose of their darker-edged new tracks to warm reception, it was clear the fans were most euphoric during their older tunes. Having lived a hair-raising life, Suggs is still Madness’ ringleader, and between songs, his charismatic commentary was just as reflectively working-class as ever, even reminding the young people in the audience to get an education, as not having one is his greatest regret. He spoke bitterly a few times about the impact the pandemic had on the band and the ever-present pathos woven into all of Madness’ lyrics. Somehow, he still retains an unpretentious wit of matured ska mischief. Before “Shut Up,” he said, “I’m not saying our formative years were built primarily on petty criminality… no… I’m not saying that. You just heard me say I’m not saying that, didn’t ya?”

A lot of people don’t know that “One Step Beyond” is actually a Prince Buster cover, but Madness decided to also perform another more obscure track of his called “Girl Why Don’t You?” after admitting, “What did Prince Buster ever do for us… apart from give us our name, our first album title, and our first two hit singles?” The audience, though mostly seated, seemed totally attentive, although a bit more mellow than deserved by a band like Madness, whose rollicking spirit was still very palpable. Suggs and saxophonist Thommo (Lee Jay Thompson, “or what’s left of him”) were particularly playful. Thommo often stood at the edge of the stage mouthing at people in the crowd and adding the occasional tambourine and vibraslap. Their signature juvenile charm was firmly there after all these years, still singing about “perverse power-hungry politicians” in “Mr. Apples.” Before they all took a quick break, “Chrissy Boy” (Chris Foreman) joked, “Any Metallica fans out there? Sorry. Any Red Hot Chili Peppers fans? You can get counseling for that, you know…” and then went into a solo cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” to tracks.

Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Finally, the last few songs of their main set were a swift invasion of their greatest ska-pop hits, bringing the crowd to a fever pitch with the almost-riotous “House of Fun,” “Baggy Trousers,” and the most widely known “Our House.” After Labi Siffre’s “It Must Be Love,” they opted out of the time-consuming encore waltz and remained on stage, saying, “We’re going to turn our backs and pretend that we’ve gotten off, and if you want us back on, just give us a cheer.” After a standing ovation, they turned back around to perform their closing numbers, “Madness” again by Prince Buster, and “Night Boat to Cairo,” all of which paved the way for some last-chance skanking and lite moshing.

As Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” played overhead, fans shuffled out of the theatre completely satisfied by Madness’ gentleman-geezer singalong that felt both timeless and even time-full, leaving us wondering if they will ever come of age.

Madness was supported by equally seasoned new wavers BERLIN with ageless singer Terri Nunn, who elegantly nailed all the hits, including “Take My Breath Away,” “No More Words,” and “The Metro.” She hopped off stage and walked around in the audience, serenading wide-eyed fans in their seats who never imagined they would get to see her so up close.

They were also supported by LA’s very own mod revivalists The Untouchables, who are widely considered to be America’s very first ska band, starting the soul-ska-punk sound in the early 80s and moving through numerous lineup changes since then, with vocalist Jerry Miller as the only current mainstay.

Follow Madness on Facebook, Instagram and X.

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Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Berlin at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Madness at Youtube Theatre 5/26/24. Photo by Michelle Shiers (@MichelleShiers) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

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