And to round off my “May, Month Of Legends” gig month with the appropriate ostentatious flourish, there’s only one suitable candidate – the 70’s art-punk/ 80’s New Romantic legend and National Treasure (oh yes; for me on a par with Attenborough, Stewart and Mirren in that regard...) that is Adam Ant! My 9th such Ant-gig since his recent performance renaissance in 2011 had its’ inception in his last year’s “Dirk Wears White Sox” tour, and the subsequent announcement of the 2015 Record Store Day reissue of his sophomore and breakthrough album, “Kings Of the Wild Frontier”. A brilliant, ground-breaking blend of tribal rhythms, Burundi-style twin drum attack and Adam’s trademark yelping vocals, it saw Adam merge imagery ranging from Native American via Pirate to Mexican gaucho tough-guy chic into a new persona, reinventing himself as the first true glam pop star of the 80’s, whilst still retaining his art-punk sensibilities in the process, and providing him with his all-encompassing breakthrough into serious Mega-Stardom. It was therefore inevitable that a tour of that album would follow, so I jumped all over it when confirmed, grabbing tix early doors for me and Rachel.
So we headed off after dropping Kasey and her mate off at Brownies, running, rather ironically, into some “Cartrouble” as our motor developed a judder at high speed which necessitated a check at the services on the way. All looked OK, so we continued on, parking up in Trenchard Level 8 for a quick getaway, then chilling and people-watching in the Colston Hall’s large atrium, instead of subjecting ourselves to the tender mercies of the support act. Ran into old school friend Alison and her hubby Rob there for a nice catch-up, before taking our front stalls seats (yup, this one was a seated affair) as the witching hour approached.
Sure enough, dead on 9 the lights dimmed and the band immediately took the stage to the strains of “Gunsmoke”, in front of an “Antmusic” backdrop and immensely high twin drum risers, pounding into the opening rhythm of strident opener “Dog Eat Dog”. Adam then emerged, resplendent in his pirate/ Hussar finery, a little trimmer than of late and “on it” from the outset, leading the charge through “Dog”’s Burundi drums and the excellent, subsequent “Antmusic”s’ irresistible soaring pop chorus. All eyes were on Adam from word one of his undulating, yelping vocals, and he responded with a performance fitting the occasion, strutting, preening and revelling in the adulation. I responded in kind, up on my feet and dancing from the get-go – surprisingly I was one of very few in the front stalls to do so!
An eerie, haunting “Ants Invasion” was a choppy, sinister delight, the onstage strobe-lighting adding to the itchy tension of the song. However the real gem of the “Kings” run-through was “Killer In The Home”. Whilst it became obvious why other “Kings” tracks had been omitted from Adam’s recent sets (“Magnificent Five” being a bit cluttered and the funky “Don’t Be Square, Be There” messy and throwaway, and side 2 of the album generally faring less well), it’s an utter mystery why he’d not been playing this track on this evidence, as “Killer” was breathtaking and brilliant, a study of understated malevolence, creepy and deliciously sinister. Wonderful stuff, almost – almost – matched by the subsequent “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, Adam pouring heart and soul as ever into his “manifesto” song – he means it, maaan...
A final “The Human Beings” chant through Native American tribal names culminated in a thus-far taciturn Adam muttering, “they ARE the human beings – we are the savages...” at its’ conclusion, before lightening the mood with a promise to, “play some of my favourites”. A thunderous, pummelling “Beat My Guest” was next up, then a perfunctory-feeling “Stand And Deliver” (Adam speaking rather than singing the vocal line) at least got everyone on their feet – finally! Adam’s promise to, “keep it historically correct with some “B” sides,” was maintained with a snarling, venomous “Press Darlings” and a lusty “Christian D’Or”, and the ironic “Cartrouble” was introduced with Adam’s recollections of, “driving in my dad’s old Riley – the rockers on bikes taking the piss.” “Zerox” was, as ever, quite magnificent, the zenith of Adam’s proto-art punk era and possibly his best song ever, the staccato guitar pattern building throughout to a huge crescendo, smashing around the auditorium. “After all that, you want a slow one – I don’t do slow ones!” he quipped, before the rambunctious “Lady” (“about something that happened in 1977 in Notting Hill – every word is true!”) segued into a rampaging “Fall-In”. A singalong “Prince Charming”, Adam leading the audience in the acapella hook repeatedly, brought an astounding set to a close, to a roaring ovation.
A 3 song encore followed, bookended with the proto-grunge workout of “Red Scab” and culminating in a speeded-up “Physical”, Adam eschewing the usual full-band bow tonight, instead dropping the mic and exiting stage right, leaving us all wanting even more, after a near-2 hour performance which simply flew by. Magnificent stuff.
I’d hauled my sweaty ass down the front for the final “Physical” so grabbed a list from a friendly roadie, then we bade farewells to Alison and Rob before hitting the road for a careful drive home. The brightest star of those early 80’s times underlined his star quality once again, with a performance befitting his legacy, the energy and vitality of a man half his age. Consistently the greatest performer I’ve seen over the last 5 years, and a fitting way to round off my “Month Of Legends”. Adam Ant, you, sir, are a true Legend!