After an uncomfortable previous experience, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby is relieved to find a rejuvenated Adam Ant embracing his punk roots.
Last time this writer saw Adam Ant, it was a bit of a shambles. He was an hour late and spent more time ranting about a series of disparate subjects (including sex, Wikipedia, Liz Taylor, Smash Hits, stadiums, Billy Idol) than singing, and he just seemed a little off in general. But, at the same time, there was a feeling of worry in the audience that his well-publicised troubles were returning. Knowing of his bi-polar disorder, seeing him act erratic is a little uncomfortable.
So, we approached tonight’s show at the Arts Club with a little trepidation.
Thankfully, the Dandy Highwayman seems to be on it again.
This tour sees him re-visit Adam & The Ants’ 1979 debut album, Dirk Wears White Sox. He plays the album in full, right through without pausing for even a quick “hello”. But he didn’t need to speak. Dirk.. has aged alarmingly well, and his current band play the material with zest, and are obviously locked in from the opening Cartrouble. By the time they reached the mid-way point of the album, they were truly on fire. Cleopatra and Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face) were particularly striking, and all the bad memories from the last show we saw disappeared immediately.
Anyone expecting Ant to play Stand and Deliver or Antmusic following the album performance were to be marginally disappointed, as he stayed very much in his punk days. Much to the thrall of longtime fans, he played rarities and b-sides from his earliest years.
A dark Plastic Surgery gave way to a joyous singalong of Beat My Guest. The volume appeared to get louder and louder as the set wore on, to the point where this became one of the loudest and heaviest gigs Getintothis has seen in a while.
Adam’s banter also found him in good spirits, joking that “I always try to write love songs, but they end up sounding like an empire of filth”.
In a way, it seemed as if he was re-connecting to his roots. Among the rarer material played, he brought out “a bunch of songs that don’t get played very often”, including an instrumental he used to play in his old band Bazooka Joe, way back when he was still called Stuart Goddard.
He talked about finding an old setlist from 1978, when The Ants played Eric’s, and went on to introduce a song called Greta X, which they played that night and, apparently, no-one liked at the time.
The crowd were a respectful mix of the old and young, with even some whippernsappers dressed as Dandy Highwaymen and Prince Charming. The room was completely sold, and we even spied some of the venue’s staff getting a cheeky snap of Adam on stage. Clearly, he retains a sizeable cult following, and with good reason.
The only real “hits” of the night were Kings of the Wild Frontier and – at a push – an extraordinarily sexy Physical (You’re So). But it didn’t matter. That wasn’t what tonight was about. It was almost a parallel universe, where Adam stayed a punk and didn’t become an 80s pop icon. And it was glorious. He seemed rejuvenated and we’d actually like to see him continue down this path.
Photos by Getintothis John Johnson