You know Suggs, right? The lead singer out of Madness, those genial, jovial, cheeky Lahndan nutty boys. Yep, him. Considering the legacy of Madness, it’s impressive to remember that during their original five or so years in the 1980s, they notched up a whopping 14 top ten hits. That’s not bad work. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking they never went away – Madness had their first farewell concert in 1992… and have continued to perform farewell concerts several times a year ever since, and released an album of new material in 2009!
But in between all that, Suggs has tried to forge a career independent of the other six band members. He’s tried all sorts of things over the years: he presented karaoke show Night Fever on Channel 5, he had a cameo in The Edge of Love, and he’s had a chat show on ITV1. Oh, and he’s written a book, too! But the thing people love him for most of all is being Suggs out of Madness.
His show tonight, Suggs: My Life Story, sees him take to the stage in St Georges, with only a pianist for company, and stand beneath the hall’s imposing altar piece to deliver a music hall-esque performance of memories and jokes, while every now and then breaking into a few bars of a song. It’s a simple enough set-up and it suits him very well – with his Cockney accent, his likeable character, his natty suit. The only problem is it feels a little too scripted, and a little too much like Suggs is simply going through the motions. There’s nothing very natural about his speech, no sense of ad libbing or chancing his luck. But it comes over that Suggs seems like a top bloke, and the audience in the sold out hall clearly love him.
Suggs starts with a monologue about waking up on his 50th birthday to find his beloved cat has died, which takes him on a journey to his mum’s in Soho to find out more about the dad he never knew. This gives Suggs the opportunity to duck backwards and forwards through time to fill in the gaps – although I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t simply go on BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are? to find out what he needed to know.
His speech is peppered with snippets of songs, some brief, some longer, and mostly his own. Over the evening, we’re treated to bits of Lola, Baggy Trousers, Embarrassment and, of course, a wonderful rendition of It Must Be Love to close (which is my favourite ever love song, fact fans). The music is lovely, and what with it being the thing that made Suggs famous in the first place, it’s clearly what the audience most wants to hear.
My highlights of the show, musical moments aside, were his two mime gags: one of himself miming how he didn’t mine on Top Of The Pops, and another of himself miming using an old-fashioned phone box. Those were both priceless moments of comedy. Although I hope it’s not reading too much into it to observe that they were both silent moments.
While much of Suggs’ raconteur-style musings sound a little stilted, he’s a decidedly warm and charming host, and to spend a few hours in his company was a comfy pleasure. Heck, he got a standing ovation at the end!
To see where else Suggs is performing, please click here.
To see what other shows are coming up at St Georges, please click here.