Adam Ant: Manchester Ritz: live review
There’s a lot of Vince Taylor around at the moment. The great lost rock n roller who never had a hit and is a semi obscure footnote in rock n roll is worshipped by those that know.
Last week I saw Primal Scream, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon play their version of the Clash’s version of Vince Taylor’s classic ”ËBrand New Cadillac’ in a moment that was so rock n roll that it is one of the great electric moments of the year from a dream line up of band that lasted ten minutes at the Justice Tonight event but should maybe carry on.
David Bowie loves Vince Taylor and took the Ziggy Stardust idea from Taylor’s mid sixties acid ramblings by Tottenham Court Road tube station. Morrissey is a fan and moves around the stage in a similar fashion and now Adam Ant, a long term Taylor fan, has written a new song called ”ËVince Taylor’ celebrating the British rock n roll cult hero. ”ËOnly Elvis was more handsome’ says Adam in the intro to the song, which is the only new one off the upcoming album that he plays tonight.
”ËVince Taylor’ is primetime Adam Ant. It sounds like those off the wall early pop songs like ”ËYoung Parisians’ crossed with the 3D filmscapes of the ”ËKings Of The Wild Frontier’ album and sounds like a potential single with its nagging riff in the verses and its great melody. It’s great to hear a new song in a near two hour set of Ant classics and obscurities and is a hint at the healthy future of this remarkable comeback from Adam. I heard the album last year and it sounded great, there is a release date mooted for April/May, hopefully it will happen then.
Adam owns the stage, an avant-garde artist trapped in pop star’s body, he stands their imperious. Before X Factor stole the term and applied it to a motley crew of people who patently do not have it, X factor meant some one who stood out an oozed a natural and deadly charisma like Adam.
He is on great form tonight. The Ritz in Manchester is the perfect venue for him. With its old school vibe and its 1500 capacity, this feels like a classic rock n roll show.
Adam is a pop star but one from a very different place than what the term usually covers- the chancers and talentless desperadoes at the top of the charts. In Cowell world pop has become scrubbed of everything including imagination. Adam’s pop is on a different planet. Just listen to ”ËKings Of the Wild Frontier’- an example of all the possibilities of pop but also a fantastic piece of avant-garde music that is actually more off the wall than the earlier Ants of ”ËDirk Wear White Sox’ underground period.
Maybe it’s because of this the music never dates. It’s power remains undiminished by the decades and it remains oddly contemporary. Tonight in the Ritz every song sounds perfect. A spread of Ant classics from the semi obscure early songs like ”ËChristian D’Or’ to the mega hits like ”ËPrince Charming’ song after song comes at you sounding tight and powerful.
After the great intro of ”ËPlastic Surgery’ it’s the classic Burundi drum shocks of ”ËDog Eat Dog’, then the rush of ”ËBeat My Guest’ then the tribal drum intro of ”ËKick’ tfollowed by the glam pop anthem ”ËCartrouble’ then ”ËXerox’. It’s non stop- a great, great version of ”ËAnts Invasion’, which is stark and full of a spooked atmosphere before Georgie enters the stage for ”ËDeutscher Girls’ before the band lurch into ”ËCatholic Day’ which Adam explains as a song that got the album banned in WH Smiths because of its lyrics.
He plays ”ËWonderful’ explaining that its his only love song- after the brand new ”ËVince Taylor’ he then plays perhaps my favourite Ants song,”ËWhip In My Valise’, then one of the later hits ”ËDesperate But Not Serious’ before the off kilter groove of ”ËCleopatra’- another classic. Every time he plays these songs they sound fresh, the sound different, re arranged, thought about changed again.
As they finally get near to the end of the set they spook out ”ËMan With Egg On His face’ then the classic defiant pop of ”ËAntmusic’ that utilises the pop song as manifesto, followed by ”ËGoody Two Shoes’ with its pure pop shuffle before ending on the glorious trio of ”ËChristian D’or’ ”ËLady’ and a anthemic ”ËFall Out’.
For the encore they play another curveball with one for the collectors and a rendition of “Red Scab’ before a version of ”ËPrince Charming’ that brings something else to the song and puts in a different light from the pop song that it is often thought as. The dark sonorous riffing and the empowering lyrics standing the test of time and underlined by the added power.
There is a brace of Trex covers, ”ËGet It On’ and ”ËTwentieth Century Boy’ a neat nod towards the pop star that is perhaps closest to Adam Ant, the late and great Marc Bolan.
The set ends with ”ËPhysical’ with its dark and filthy oozing sexuality, another classic anthem that oozes with the power of fuck.
People keep talking about the best new band of the year. In a weird way here it is right in front of you. Decades in and Adam Ant sounds fresher than ever, reinvigorated he sounds like he has just started.
We’ve been documenting this comeback from the beginning and it’s getting better and better. Adam Ant is pulling this off. He looks fantastic, the Blue Black Hussar with his Napoleonic hat and criss cross of piratical and dandy looks at the top of his game. He oozes an intensity that is not fake and is all about the performance.
The woman in the audience (and there’s more woman here than you normally get at a gig) are in full on swoon mode and there are plenty of screams when Adam takes to the stage a couple of minutes after the dark and tortuously brilliant slowed down riff of ”ËPlastic Surgery’ pulses across the Ritz.
Before Adam enters the band stand there impassive and the tension is racked up. It’s a great start, this is not the Top Of the Pops gold intro. By choosing this song to start Adam Ant has returned as the artist and not the pop star. There is no banging out the hits for the easy money for one of those tawdry eighties packages. This is the real Adam with those strange and dark yet punk rock pop songs of sex that stand the test of time as works of art. And there it is, that slow riff and the feedback and then Adam himself enters the stage for the angular shock riffing of the song and the release from the tension is palpable.
The band sounds great. There is a real power here. A real Sex Pistols wall of sound is coming out of that line of Hiwatt amps (Hiwatt amps- how cool is that, rarely seen but always sounding great). They utilise the classic twin drummers of the chart Ants that make every song a real powerhouse and the guitar and bass are cranked to swagger maximum.
Adam plays a very good guitar on the odd song and the whole thing is really powerful. They could easily play a Download festival and get away with it because they pack the power of the modern metal bands but combine it with the avant garde pop to make a sound that is uniquely Adams.
This is a sound that has its roots in the rock n roll and rockabilly that is played between the bands on the PA tonight. That feral sexbeat that so terrified the authorities in the fifties when it first emerged from back hills in the USA, that pounding, crashing backbeat that started genuine riots in the UK when it arrived with the cuddly teddy bear of Bill Haley in the late fifties.
Haley may have not looked the part but rock n roll was so powerful in the UK in the monochrome rain swept post war fifties that he was enough and the kids went crazy. Imagine if Elvis had arrived!
The first time Haley played Manchester there was a riot and cars were turned over. Rock n roll must have seemed to have come from outer space at the time- the roll call is impressive fifty years later- Elvis, Chuck Berry, sweet Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and loads of others.
It’s that kind of electricity that we are dealing with here. Rock n roll has been forgotten by the corporate takeover. The same people who were terrified of its feral power and its call to arms and its plea for the good things in life like fucking in the streets are now running the show. They are giving us the polished nobodies to entertain us, the celebrities with nothing to say and that’s why people like Adam still pack a power- pure rock n roll that surfs on emotion and passion and that sexual ooze that is so rare that when it hits the stage it’s captivating.
Adam grew up with rock n roll, he understands its innate power, he feels the art and the power and sex of Elvis, the Hamburg Beatles, Marc Bolan, Glam rock- the primal rush of rock n roll that was so scarce when he started in the post glam mid seventies.
He played bass in Bazooka Joe- a rock n roll revival band in that period. You look at the pictures of him and there he is with his crushers on, looking the part. In November 1975 they played a gig at St Martins Art Collage with the Sex Pistols supporting and the rest is history.
For Adam the Sex Pistols presented a million possibilities. The mid seventies was like the fifties that Bill Haley arrived into and punk was our Elvis. It was sexy and dangerous and thrilling. It explored the darkness and celebrated the extremes.
Adam Ant had an innate understanding of punk and he still does. A disciple of Malcolm Mclaren, Adam is one of the last genuine punk rockers, one of the last of the originals. He understood that part of punk rock was pop music, that it was a mainstream culture but a mainstream culture with a streak of intensity that the mainstream never wanted.
When punk arrived Adam Ant totally got it. He was already there. He saw all the possibilities. And the danger of the form and became one of its key players. The original Ants were the darkest and strangest and most thrilling of the bands that were beyond the Sex Pistols. All the time, though, Adam had that voice- the purest voice that still rings true tonight. He is a great singer and through the two hour set his voice never wavers. It’s a voice as pure as a matinee idol pop voice that sings of areas that are darker and more dangerous than these people could ever imagine.
Watching Adam Ant tonight is like watching someone from this punk rock space. The sex, style and subversion of the sexy, young assassins of the original punk which has become so blurred. Punk means so many different things to different people that it’s become out of focus and sometimes cartoon like and it’s great to be jolted back into its original reality. That artful danger, that whiff of rock n roll cordite.
As Adam strips down to semi nakedness during the filthy ”ËPhysical’- the long, slow fuck of the set has reached its climax. It seems astonishing when you think about it but Adam Ant is currently fronting one of the best rock n roll shows in the UK right now.