"HAPPY Christmas," extols singer Suggs as he looks out across a sun-baked crowd relishing the kind of heat wave scientifically constructed to make the vintage reggae that ushers in Madness' entrance sound that much better.

It's typical of the band's frontman, who only needs to raise an eyebrow, adjust his sunglasses or deliver the odd bon mot, to have the audience in the palm of his hand during a special evening at Delamere Forest's stunning surroundings.

Suggs revels in his and the band's status as national treasures throughout the night and armed with a back catalogue with few equals in British pop music why shouldn't they be allowed an annual victory lap of the country's most beautiful venues as part of  Forestry England’s ‘Forest Live’ concert series? 

The Leader: Suggs from Madness at Delamere Forest Suggs from Madness at Delamere Forest (Image: Paul Duran)

From the opening clarion call of One Step Beyond to a welcome run through of debut single The Prince via the kitchen sink drama of Embarrassment, the show opens with a triple whammy that's hard to beat and one lapped up by the 'refreshed' lads in the crowd many of whom have donned a fez for the occasion. 

Despite their reputation as a hit machine happy to play the nostalgia circuit Madness don't entirely rest on their 80s laurels: newer songs like NW5 and Baby Burglar (concerning the band's days as juvenile delinquents) fit into the setlist seamlessly with no let it up in pace or enjoyment for the rude boys and girls down the front. 

The Leader: Madness at Delamere Forest Madness at Delamere Forest (Image: Paul Dulac)

As the sun sets across the forest these gritty tales of London lives and loves could sound incongruous given the backdrop but songs like My Girl, Bed and Breakfast Man and Lovestruck are everyman anthems that have become part of the texture and timbre of the many adoring fans, young and old who sing every word. They're tunes that run through the very fabric of English music from skiffle to grime. 

The home stretch sees them pull out the unstoppable hat-trick of House of Fun, Baggy Trousers and It Must Be Love with the latter provoking a moving singalong that enables Suggs to take a step back and swallow it all in. He and his band deserve it.