ADAM ANT @ OXFORD NEW THEATRE, 8/6/2016
Are we excited about this?
Oh yeah. Just a bit a lot. Heyday pop revivals aren’t the kind of gigs I go to but you’ll have to forgive the undercurrent of gush in this review because this is the exception: it’s ADAM ANT, and the New Theatre feels like a stage set for the return of a lost hero.
Which, in many ways, it is. For many of us here tonight, Adam and the Ants weren’t just a pop band from back in the day. Adam and the Ants were/are Pop Love #1, the very first and first loves aren’t forgotten, are they? That stuff runs deep, and the reason why those albums from 1981 and 1982 remain in your life while others don’t is because every time you played them again, even after years of exploring and branching off and out into all kinds of music, you still loved the sounds that broke through the tape hiss.
And in some ways, those A&TA albums sound even better and oddball eccentric on return. With more music and knowledge packing your ears and creaking your shelves (files? clouds?), Adam and the Ants aren’t just TOTP idols like they were when you were seven or eight. They’re post-punk, digging Bowie and Roxy and Iggy but flashfunflamboyant and rhythm-heavy with tough guitars and 50s surf and Western spaghetti and storytelling bravado… not the usual chart-topper mix, is it?
Now it’s 8 June 2016. Last week was the 40th anniversary of the Lesser Free Trade Hall gigs in Manchester by the Sex Pistols, a band who supported a pre-Ants Adam in Bazooka Joe, and it’s just gone 35 years since the Bazooka departer set Kings of the Wild Frontier loose. Adam Ant plays it in full.
So the show starts with the main item, straight in without announcement to Dog Eat Dog and on through to Human Beings without banter, deviation or improv. You’ve got the tracks, what else do you need to know? That the two-drummer line-up does the record’s Burundi rhythms justice? That Ant’s voice is ON and in top nick, and so is he, belying his 63 years with ease?
True and staggeringly true. And if the guitar overdrive sometimed flattens the subtleties of the Ants’ original, it means his band are more than suited to the Dirk tracks that dominate the second half and to me, this is where the gig starts to feel like a proper gig. Not because Kings ain’t ace – it is – but because after that, we don’t know exactly what’s coming. Even Ant himself looks more relaxed post-Kings as he leads the band into Beat My Guest. And Christian D’or. And .. fuck it, I’m just gonna reel off as many tracks as I can remember in no particular order so that you know exactly what kind of a set he’s pulling off these days: Stand and Deliver. Cartrouble, Xerox, Never Trust a Man (With Egg on his Face), Vive le Rock, Press Darlings, Fall-In, Prince Charming, Desperate But Not Serious, Goody Two Shoes, Red Scab, Marc Bolan’s Get it On. How’s that for a bunch of killer tunes after an album of killer tunes? Vive Le Rock surprises – forgotten how ridiculously catchy it is – while Press Darlings has possibly the best stickwork of the night, which might be a controversial claim given that we’ve just had KOTWF in full but with those drums and that riff, the track takes on a Killing Joke air. Never noticed that before.
The night ends with the ever-sleazy Physical (You’re So), a reminder of Adam Ant’s legacy, post-punk credentials and alt-rock influence. Still a showman, still a maverick and still carrying a misfit aura, the joy and affection pulsing out for the band and their leader is proof that we are all Ant’s people. Wherever next for the Wild Nobility?