How appropriate Graham McPherson should have had his 50th at London’s Victorian music hall Wiltons.
There always was a rich, vaudevillian tradition and energy about Madness the pop band he fronted, better known then – and now – as lead singer Suggs. Having reached a dangerous age though, it naturally makes a man more reflective.
Though not many then get the opportunity to take their introspection on the road for a 50-date, one-man-and-a-pianist tour, sub-titled My Life Story, In Words and Music. Even fewer could turn it into an hilarious and hugely-entertaining piece of theatre.
Looking even more of a music hall troubadour, in a sharp, green-plaid suit, here he was nervelessly-channelling some of the great masters of monologue from an earlier age.
He’s still a street-savvy North London lad with a sharp turn-of-phrase, and with the help of co-writer Toby Follett, and stage director Owen Lewis, it all becomes a cleverly-paced mix of anecdotes, songs – supported by Deano Mumford on piano and guitar – and just a little of TV’s personal odyssey show Who Do You Think You Are?
For Suggs never knew his father, and at 50 set out to trace his whereabouts.
He re-creates that quest, along with a lot of other life stories, pacing the stage between sharply-executed lighting cues, engaging in conversation with an empty chair, in the style of a seasoned actor.
Near his story’s climax he even manages a mad impression of Tommy Copper, or a much-less flattering ‘tribute’ to Liam Gallagher that would suggest he and Suggs are unlikely to be collaborating on an album in the near future.
Naturally enough, there’s to be a Suggs autobiography released later this year, but in the meantime his story ends here in an unashamedly sentimental vein that can even prompt a lump in the throat as he sings It Must Be Love.
It must be the same affection that earns him a rousing ovation from a near full house.