Monday, 14 November 2011

832 ADAM ANT AND THE GOOD, THE MAD AND THE LOVELY POSSE, Bristol O2 Academy, Friday 11 November 2011

The undisputed comeback king of 2011, off on another jaunt and playing appreciably closer to us than Birmingham this time; given he’d delivered Gig Of The Year thus far in B’rum at the start of June, how could I resist? This time I was joined by fellow early Ant fans Big Man and Prov, plus I managed to persuade Rachel, who was weaned on the “Prince Charming”-era glam pop Adam, to join us for another nostalgia trip. Mindful of an early “club night” finish at the Academy Fridays, we decided on an early departure to pick the boys up at 6.15, and t’was good that we did too; an horrendous journey involving monsoon-like double-wiper storms on the M4 slowing us to 30 mph, plus a 20 minute traffic jam to clear Cabot Circus on the entrance to Bristol, saw us park on the roof of Trenchard Car Park a full 2 hours after departure, and 5 minutes before Adam’s anticipated arrival onstage! Yikes! We sprinted helter skelter downstairs and into the venue, already packed to the gills with Ant devotees – Bristol , let it not be said you didn’t make an effort for this one! We passed a dandy highwayman in full regalia plus duelling pistols in the lobby (how’d he get those in?), and I then stood by a bloke in full Native American feather headdress at the urinals! Hope I’m not stood behind him on the dancefloor!

Managed to shoe-horn ourselves onto the dry-ice choked floor, stage left as usual, before the lights were killed and the Posse took the stage at 8.30, once again easing into the sleazy, grunge-lite opening riffery of “Plastic Surgery” before Adam, again in full Hussar regalia, took the stage and the mic as the song pace picked up, taking a reverb-heavy lead vocal with the hookline, “take you down to Harley Street…”, already in command, already the centre of attention.

In 2011's cynical cold light of day, we kind of forget just how big a star Adam Ant actually was. In 1980-1983 he was literally ubiquitous, turning up on Royal Variety Performances and prime time Saturday shows, drawing 17 million viewers. You couldn’t move in the charts for bumping into one of his hits; this quite literally over Christmas 1980, as his 2 previous record labels attempted to cash in on his sudden success, flooding the charts with Adam And The Ants records! Lady Gaga times Bono times Hugh Jackman, with an irresistible star quality and sex appeal, allied with an undeniable punk rock street cred, gave him almost universal appeal.

As before, however, I was in it for the early Ants material, once again in happy abundance. I knew what was coming, so after “Dog Eat Dog”’s double drums abated, I handed my jacket to Rach, regressed back to my 15 year old punk rock self, and piled in the increasing mosh for the ringing guitar intro to a thrilling “Beat My Guest”. The same incredible vintage Ants sequence as at Birmingham followed, no less amazing for being anticipated; a strident chanting “Kick”, a languid sinewy “Cartrouble” with a delicious descending verse bassline, and the highlight as ever, “Zerox”, a staccato art-punk classic which built and fleshed out into an all-too short (again!) crescendo and featured a passionate vocal from Adam, clearly on top form throughout.

I took a breather as Adam brought on his dancing girls, including “Sachsgate” girl Georgina “Georgie Girl” Baillie, for the military march of “Deutscher Girls”. Then, an unannounced “Stand And Deliver” heralded a clutch of more “commercial” numbers to placate the masses puzzled with the proliferation of older songs, and also brought a tear of nostalgia to Rachel’s eye! The Burundi drums and Native American chants of Adam’s “Manifesto” number, “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, dovetailed into this section and brought the most rapturous reception tonight, Adam pausing to take in a lengthy and reverential ovation.

“I’ve been lying awake at night thinking, what will I play? What do people want to hear? Then I think, "fuck it!" I’ll play what I want to!” announced Adam before a suitably perverse “Whip In My Valise”, again sent the set into pre-fame era mode. “Antmusic” was announced with the comment, “never play this in a Chinese restaurant!” as Adam, a yelping, yodelling, chanting, energetic, kinetic and riveting stage presence throughout, belying his 57 years, fooled and teased the audience. I piled back into the mosh for the set denouement; a brilliant “Lady” (“this should have been the ‘A’ side of my first single,” said Adam; too right!) segueing into a punky, amphetamine-fast “Fall In” to round off a brilliant set.

The encores saw the dancing girls down to their undergarments, much to the boys’ delight, making even the sadly inevitable “Prince Charming” palatable! A hasty run through “Get It On” and “Physical”, given that the gig was bumping right up to 10 pm curfew time (resulting in the omission of “Red Scab”, amongst others, from an intended longer encore – boo!) finished off another stellar performance from a born performer now purged of all his demons and doing what he does best. The man is a star, pure and simple, and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to see him perform this year. Another set-list and a swift run home put the exclamation point on a wonderful night in the company of good friends and Adam Ant, my Live Act of 2011. In a great 2011 gig year, there’s still no contest!

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