Britain’s enduring Ska band return to Australian shores.

The last time Madness toured Australia back in 2009, I made the mistake of wearing a new pair of desert boots. At the end of the night they looked like I’d been digging coal at the bottom of a mineshaft for two hours, but it was a memorable evening.

Some seven years on, the ‘nutty boys’ return to Australia for a series of shows promoting their new long player, Can’t Touch Us Now. The Melbourne show is at Festival Hall, which, incidentally, is the venue that Madness played on their very first tour of Australia in 1981.

Inside, beer is flowing like New Years Eve. Locals are outnumbered by ex-pats this evening; a confluence of English accents can be heard from the bar to the stage. One thing is clear: everyone is here to party.

And Madness don’t disappoint. While there’s an obvious emphasis on playing music from the new album, the iconic songs that helped define the face of British music in the early ‘80s are strategically threaded through the new material to keep everyone appeased. Embarrassment, The Prince, My Girl and Cardiac Arrest sit alongside Herbert, Blackbird, and Mumbo Jumbo from Can’t Touch Us Now.

But Suggs knows that the audience have come for the hits and declares on the hour mark that “things are about to pick up”. And they do, in a sucker punch quintet of One Step Beyond, House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and It Must Be Love that leaves the Festival Hall breathless.

There’s little evidence of the sore back that Suggs reports halfway through the gig: he still moves lithely in equal parts cool and comedy. After nearly 40 years in the business, he works the crowd with ease.

Mr. Apples, Madness and an extended version of Night Boat To Cairo spectacularly conclude an energetic performance that proves to be the perfect aperitif to the Easter long weekend.

Madness Can’t Touch Us Now Tour

April 15 – Hordern Pavillion. Moore Park, Sydney

April 16 – Bluesfest, Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, Byron Bay

Suggs: My Life Story In Words & Music

April 20 – Enmore Theatre, Newtown

April 22 – Astor Theatre, Mt. Lawley

April 24, Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

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