Manchester Academy - Sun 5th June 2011
20 thoughts during Adam Ant's brilliant Manchester gig
1. It's packed in here. Totally sold out. 850 people. They could have played the next venue up - the 2400 capacity Academy One and sold that out. The word is out. The tour has been brilliant and this is one of the great comebacks.
2. The set list is perfect. Loads of 'Dirk' period stuff. Plastic Surgery, Kick, Cartrouble, Cleopatra, Physcial but also the hits including a great stripped down Prince Charming, and a whole host of off the cuff covers including a killer take of T-rex's Get It On; Adam doing Marc - now that's genius.
3. Adam's voice. What a great singer he is, the yodelling is really fab, it's that very Adam touch of pure pop and dark underground, the pure pop of the yodelling somehow makes everything sound even more avant garde - this is one of the great rock n roll voices, a brilliant clairty that cuts like a knife even two weeks into a tour.
4. Punk rock. The teenybop years clouded the issue but tonight you feel it. You feel that you are staring right into the heart of pure punk rock. The sex, style and subversion of that art school bop. Those zig zagging no compromise songs. The power. The strange and disconcerting lyrics. the provocation and the sauciness.
5. Pirates ahoy! Someone says Adam looks like Johnny Depp. I have to correct their pop culture fuck up. Johnny Depp stole his whole Pirate look from Adam. Depp is a cool dude;he knows his pop culture and he knows Adam, and he can spot a great look when he sees one. The whole Blue Backed Hussar as The Terminator is really effective. You suddenly realise just how sensible everything has become. Indie bands dress in cagouls, fuck me, I wouldn't wear a cagoul if it was pissing with rain let alone on stage. Adam enters the stage in the Hussar jacket and the rogue-ish Nelson tricorn hat with a load of feathers stuck in it - that's how it should be done.
6. Great intro tape. A nearly five minute segment from a biker movie. You can cut the tension and expectation with a knife. Adam is into the hells angels, the one per cent that say no he will explain to you pointing at his creaking book shelf full of books on bikers and outlaws. The tape segues into the bass line from Plastic Surgery played really slow and tense - another great moment of understanding the moment, understanding the tension and Nietchien release of great rock n roll.
7. We were talking of the great Vague fanzine. The best british fanzine of the punk era; edited by Tom Vague. It would have great road tales of touring with Adam And The Ants from the underground days. Vague was obsessed with punk, post punk and into pre Goth, Apocolypse Now, squat life, football hooliganism, Magik and anarchy - it was a truly dangerous magazine and Tom's write ups of the Ants were perceptively thrilling.
8. Kings Of The Wild Frontier Adam gives a little speech before Kings about how intense the song makes him feel. Some people confuse this sort of intensity with madness. they are wrong. The madness in these times is the acceptance of mediocrity. Adam could have taken the easy root and done the X-Factor circuit crooning away and letting his pretty face do the work but he's from a different place. The art Adam is on parade tonight and is astonishing. Has anyone ever so effectivly gone back to their roots like this and re-discovered their mojo? Kings Of The Wild Frontier is the most off the wall attempt to write a pop classic ever. A pop band would never dare to dream like that normally. People say Adam sold out with the Kings album. They were not listening. The record is even more left field than Dirk! but also uplifting, energising, 3D kaleidosscope pop that no-one has got near to repeating evr since then.
9. The new album. Nope they didn't play any new tracks. I guess the back catalogue is so cool they didn't have to. They were not excactly resting on laurels though - there was a lot of obscurities in there as well. The new album would slot right into the set though. I've heard it all and despite being told that it was rough mixes by several people was knocked out by how good it sounded. It's a variation of Adam sounds from almost ballads to heavy, dark Dirk style stuff, real into the heart of punk rock adventures but also, because of the tunes and because of that voice, pure pop. If he gets it right it will be a top five album.
10. post punk Adam and the Ants were one of the real punk bands but they were also post punk. Post punk has been narrowed for years to mean more NME type bands (which I love) but Adam seems to have been edited out of this story. If you want to look at who was just about the first person to re write the (no) rules of punk then you have to check Adam out. The music was so off the wall, the whole look was genius and the twists and turns and reference points were wide and fascinating - at the time the punks believed in two bands; the Ants and Crass - the Pistols had split, the Clash were mainstream and everyone else had got boring or fallen apart. I can still see the crudely painted logos of both bands as I look back.
11. Screaming girls There were actually girls screaming as Adam stripped. He may be 56 but he looks great and the squeals of delight were far from ironic.
12. The cover of YMCA Like the Fall the Ants always did great covers. Never the obvious but the unexpected. Catch A Falling Star from the early days is great but the YMCA changed to ANTS cover is, oddly, thrilling. Always a great song Adam punks it up and changes the words. It could be funny or just really cool, you can never tell! It's definitely not ironic though, thank fuck.
13. Songs I would love to have heard. This is splitting hairs. they played for nearly two hours but could have done with Whip In My Valise - a song that is more like a play with it's imagery and text and also Young Parisians - always loved that song; it also led me onto the Monochrome Set but that's a whole other story...
14. Adam likes to talk. First few songs out the way and he starts to talk. Lots of great stories about meeting Bryan Ferry or Live Aid only letting him play one song but the best tale is of WH SMiths banning the Dirk album because of references to oral sex - 'they can't have had much fun at night' Adam quips.
15. Seaside Town tour. The next gigs are round the seaside towns - how fantastically British is that!
16. Dedications Adam dedicates songs to great Manchester bands like Buzzcocks, Ian Curtis's voice and Hooky's bass and to the Haci-fucking- enda, which he claims to have once played. We can't remember off the top of our heads if he played there or not but we are touched by his sincerity. He also dedicates a song to a girl he spied in the crowd who has been following him for years.
17. Where next? This is just the start. This could get a lot bigger. A triumphant autumn tour with the album? Maybe even the stadiums. Everyone I spoke to at the gig was blown away. Words that cropped up were energy/passion/intensity/punk rock/ great set list.
18. New Romantics Odd how Adam is still dumped in with the new romantics. This was hardly the Spands or Duran Duran. This was far darker and more dangerous. Adam comes from rock n roll. He is dangerous art. he was from the very centre of punk. An acolyte of Malcolm Maclaren who saw the Sex Pistols and understood. You watch him now and you understand as well.
19. Retro? I've finally finished reading Simon Reynolds great book, Retromania, and it's been making me think. A lot. But then I see someone playing songs nearly 30 years old and they sound like now. Pop music and time play funny tricks on your mind. This is not nostalgia; this is of the moment. These songs are timeless. Played with this much passion they burn. They were so original then that they didn't fit. The music press hated Adam then but then they liked their underground bands to be ugly - being fuckeable wasn't part of the deal. People still talk about the white stripe but they miss the point - this could be some of the ultimate art school music this country has ever made. Pure art.
20. Ridicule Is Nothing To Be Scared Of. Great lyric. Still empowering now.