ADAM ANT: live review

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.

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Making History

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.

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Remains of the day. KOTWF tape RIP

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?

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Oxford, penultimate date

The P-word

REWIND MAY: POP LEGENDS AND POP’S LEGEND

The Music You Leave Behind – that’s P-music, right? But eventually, you become old enough to know better, to know that everything comes right back around anyway, and so it is with the P-word – and no, we’re not even talking Prog. We’re talking about music’s other Big P … POP. Because when there’s a pop star – OK, the pop star – from your yoof, the one you first really got in to, on tour playing THAT album, do you go? Dunno dunno ditto dunno, so to delay things further we’ll hop to another kind of pop: Iggy.

He was on these shores the other week and if you’ve seen any clips from his current tour, you’ll see a man who looks like he’s fighting the limitations of his own body and yet, when he’s let loose near a stage, he still can’t fucking stop himself, even at this late hour in life. Crowd surf at the Albert Hall, was it? His gigs are one-man war zones, yet the reason Iggy’s out there at all – maybe for the last time, who knows? – is Post Pop Depression, and now that we’ve had two whole months to live with it, we can say for sure how great a record it is. When he hooked up with Homme last year, he can’t have known about Bowie’s accelerating endtime – not really – but in a Blackstar world, Post Pop Depression seems to know, seems to tell, seems to share. Something. About finality? Perhaps. PPD is ghostly, though deserted rather than haunted…a slow erosion, a fading print. Still got an edge though, and what makes it work is a band who feel the space (desert influence?) and play with and around it with a richness that Iggy’s solo voice – the post-confrontation, post-exposure, post-Stooges voice – finally deserves.

Anyway, back to that other kind of pop: music. Not because Duran Duran hit Oxford for the Common People festival on Saturday (even though they did), but because ADAM ANT is in town next week, playing Kings of the Wild Frontier. To go or not to go?

Sir Adam of Ant is my pop idol #1, much like it sounds like he was for Alexis Petridis in this feature,  though surely the headline overstates things a bit – if Adam Ant redefined pop, where were the colonies of Ant-alikes? However, he did own the charts and he did it with a style and a soundclash that was all his own, as did Frankie Goes to Hollywood a couple of years later. They put out albums that STILL sound brash, brave and brilliantly flawed today.

(for the record: have just put Kings of the Wild Frontier on – side 2, track 1. Completely proves the point. Now going full white-stripe for Ants Invasion, Killer in the Home, Dog Eat Dog…).

Can Adam Ant 2016 enhance the perfection trapped in those records, tapes and childhood memories? Or is it a gig best left alone?

’til next time!

Status update, Friday 3rd: ticket bought. Who am I to resist? CAN. NOT. WAIT.