Despite not being alive when a significant proportion of his singles were troubling the charts, Adam Ant has always been a musical hero of mine.
I’ll never forget the moment I first heard ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’, the first track on a cassette called ‘Hits’ which I found in my mum and dad’s collection at the age of nine. It hit like a bomb; a madcap whirlwind of trash glam guitar riffs, manic howls and yelps and deranged terrace chanting, the spellbinding Burundi drumming and, of course, THAT glorious, life affirming battle cry of an intro; “A new royal family of wild nobility, WE ARE THE FAMILY!!!”.
The fact that something so utterly freeform, wild and untamed could reach number two in the singles chart made him an irrefragable pop genius in my book, I’ve been hooked on his music ever since.
Tonight will be the first time I’ve seen him live since his impressive comeback after several years of decline due to mental health issues, in fact it will be the first time I’ve seen him live, like, ever. Excited? You bet…
Opening with an impressive double whammy of ‘ Press Darlings’ and ‘Dog Eat Dog’, and dressed in full buccaneer attire, Adam Ant looks and sounds like he is having the time of his life. His backing band, The Good The Mad & The Lovely Posse, are quite amazing; a breathtakingly loud, dazzlingly precise outfit blessed with two, yep TWO, drummers playing together through almost every song in perfect unison, a truly astonishing spectacle which I am pretty sure I have not witnessed before tonight.
Hits such as ‘Stand And Deliver’, ‘Kings’ and ‘Antmusic’ sound heavier, more urgent than ever before; the sheer volume of the gig is making my jeans vibrate and quiver to the point where I wonder if an electric eel is inadvertantly crawling up one of my legs, but isn’t this how all gigs should make you feel?
The majority of the setlist is comprised of early, pre-Kings era material, including several tracks from Dirk wears White Sox, Adam’s extraordinary debut album which still sounds like nothing released before or since. The likes of ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face) still completely floor you with their strangeness, catchiness, dark humour and difficult beauty; whilst the version of ‘Cartrouble’ played tonight had me literally punching the air in glee and sheer elation, particularly when the unmistakeable riff of part two kicked in!
Another highlight from this period is ‘Whip In My Valise’, surely one of the greatest songs ever written; a tortured, macabre tale of a disturbed teenager locked in a sado-masochistic relationship with an older man. It’s chillingly anthemic chorus of “who taught you the torture?” conveys more words, images and emotions in a single sentence than Fifty Shades Of Shit, sorry, Grey, manages in about 300 pages. Adam’s not a fan of said novel, cheerfully claiming that the author stole the idea from this track, an opinion which is damn near impossible to argue with, especially on the strength of the version played tonight!
The oft-forgotten “middle period” of Adam’s career gets a well deserved look in, the creeping paranoia of ‘Desperate But Not Serious’, the playfully sleazy pop charm of ‘Strip’, the million-selling stadium anthem that never was ‘Vive Le Rock’, and an energised, rockified ‘Room At The Top’ all go down well with the crowd. The pace only really slows down for ‘Wonderful’, a criminally neglected tear jerker released back in 1995, and taken from the highly underrated album of the same name.
The biggest ‘pop’ moments come towards the end; ‘Goody Two Shoes’ and ‘Antmusic’ bring the house down, everyone in the crowd hugs their brother/sister, sheds a tear of joy and parties like it’s 1999, marvellous stuff indeed. New songs come in the forms of ‘Vince Taylor’ and ‘Cool Zombie’, the former an infectious rockabilly lament to the doomed ‘Brand New Cadillac’ author, the latter a creepy psyche-pop oddity with a great chorus.
On this evidence, I’m almost certain that the forthcoming album, Adam Ant Is The Blueback Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter, will be a 24 carat, solid gold, Special K with strawberries triumph.
Other highlights included a speedy, amphetamine quaffing ‘Xerox’, probably one of the closest approximations of being at The 100 Club in the late seventies without the aid of a time machine which I am ever likely to get in 21st Century Britain, an interesting, slowed down take on ‘Prince Charming’ which made the song’s themes of the perils of vanity and self obsession seem more appurtenant than ever before, and, finally, the sublime ‘Physical (You’re So)’, pop-punk par excellence.
It’s difficult to believe that Mr Ant is 57 years old; he has an energy, swagger and gleeful sense of danger which many young pop stars would do well to take a few notes from, a true showman in the best possible sense of the word.
Of course, taking into account a back catalogue as colossal as Ant’s there were always going to be a few niggling omissions; no ‘Ant Rap’, ‘Puss ‘N’ Boots, ‘Killer In The Home’, but at the same time this was about as close to perfect as setlists come, so such complaints are almost certainly unnecessary.
Part pantomime, part pop concert, part punk gig, Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse put on a show that was nothing short of exceptional, one which I feel privileged to have been a part of, even if it was just as a spectator! Effing brilliant.
All words by Sean Diamond. You can read more from Sean on LTW here.