Graham “Suggs” McPherson has always been a likeable fellow in my mind’s eye. I have known his public persona from seeing him on the occasional chat show and of course as the iconic frontman/singer-songwriter of Madness, but I really knew nothing of his life outside of that. This show certainly enlightened me in a very entertaining way. Listening to the chatter among the crowd nearly every accent seemed to be British and there was a generous smattering of Fred Perry shirts and mod haircuts to be seen as we sat waiting for the show to begin. His tribe had gathered and were anticipating great things from their leader.
Joining Suggs on the stage was a Le Corbusier chair, a grand piano, a microphone and an acoustic guitar along with his sidekick/accompanist/
Unusual fodder for a comedy show one might think but such is the endearing way Suggs has with words, wit and music, he was totally engaging and entertaining right from the outset. It was as if the audience were being told a thrilling bed time story that had something everyone could immediately identify with – honesty, heart and a love of music. As a story teller, Suggs was extremely impressive. While obviously scripted and carefully crafted along with director Owen Lewis and co writer Toby Folley, his physical humour, spot on delivery and songs kept us all listening intently and wanting to know what was waiting around the next bend or more specifically, the next stop on the train ride to Birmingham.
Without giving the story away, it’s a tale of a man looking back and looking forward, of hopes and dreams along with luck and timing, the optimism of youth and the proof for Suggs that love endures. Drawing from his book of memoirs That Close, it was a tale that many present could easily identify with, especially his fellow country men and women in the audience. Local knowledge and football asides went down a treat as did his schoolboy exploits that spawned the song Baggy Trousers and the origins, rise, demise and rebirth of Madness. A tip of the hat to the Kinks, the rockers, mods and teddy boys, the punk scene and ska movement, classic one liners and the ability not to take himself too seriously were all important elements in this winning formula.
The tale reached a crescendo with his performance of his hit song It Must Be Love. Accompanied by Deano on piano, the song summed up all he had told us during the course of the evening. Nothing more, nothing less, love is the best.