The undoubted Comeback Of The Decade continues… following my witnessing Adam Ant’s run-through of his debut album, the sleazy, sexy art-school punk rock masterpiece that is “Dirk Wears White Sox” at the Hammersmith Odeon on one of my best days in recent memory, last year’s Record Store Day (gig 913), Adam had undertaken 4 more performances at a sold-out Islington Assembly then decided to take the show out to the provinces! So, this being the best night of the tour for me, I grabbed tix toot sweet for another Adam Ant show, my 8th (including his RSD acoustic performance at Rough Trade) in just shy of 4 years – well, I did say I’d be back whenever time and finances allowed!
Tired from a family day out, ironically in Bristol, and also suffering with a streaming cold and headache, there was nevertheless no way I was missing this one, so I dosed myself up with drugs them took a whip-fast early evening jaunt down the M4 into the blazing sunset, losing my way to this new venue around Temple Meads, then finding the road I needed was closed, and having to double back to get there! Eventually dumped the motor in a parking layby near this allegedly “new” venue, a scuzzy old run-down and low-rent warehouse effort which recalled the 80’s Sheffield Leadmill. Openers Shooze were already onstage, their unimpressive set including a couple of forgettable covers and some reggae-infused rock which actually recalled The Police at times, particularly in the vocalist’s Sting-like nasal lilt.
Their set meandered to an end at 8.30 with some better, rockier numbers, but we then had an interminable – and knee-numbing – hour-plus wait, thankfully enlivened by this knowledgeable crowd singing along to some punk classics over the PA, before Adam’s young backing band took the stage to the strains of Iggy’s “The Passenger”, at about 20 to 10. The dual drummers kicked in the solid drumbeat opening of “Cartrouble Part 1”, following by the distinctive bass refrain, then The Star appeared. As befitted his promise of “an evening of 100% British Leather Rock”, Adam was all bedecked in black leather, no concession to his later-period “pop” image (things looking up already!), with a natty straw boater atop his bandana-wrapped dome, as he yelped the song into life, immediately riveting, mobile and kinetic, performing the songs rather than just singing them, meaning it (maaaaan) from word one.
“Dirk”, having been further bedded in during the aforementioned Islington shows, was delivered with aplomb, the band tight and dynamic, rarely putting a note wrong, but still delivering the rock in raw, garage band style, befitting tonight’s surroundings. “Cartrouble Part 1” segued perfectly into “Part 2”, the brazen riff bursting into life, Adam’s flippant vocal a feature. “Day I Met God” was a boisterous, careering thrill-ride, then the stark “Tabletalk” was chilling, Adam’s repetition of the middle-8 hook “love love love love” echoing around the venue. The biker jacket was off for “Cleopatra”, then “Catholic Day” saw some distinctly un-PC but playful shotgun miming, before the singalong during the dramatic “Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)” actually elicited tonight’s first, “thank you,” from Adam!
“The Idea”’s off-kilter funk groove brought “Dirk” to a close, after which we were left wondering how the rest of the set would shape up. Happily, having delved back in time for “Dirk”, Adam then went back even further in his Antmusic time machine, selecting approximately fuck-all songs from the “pop” years, dredging up some rarely heard but utterly unforgettable proto-punk Sexmusic gems. Also, following the grunge-sleaze of “Plastic Surgery” building to its’ frantic, frenetic finale, then the ringing chimes, driving power and war-chant yodelling of the brilliant “Beat My Guest”, we finally got the chatty Adam! Taciturn through “Dirk” (“less talk, more songs,” Adam offered by way of explanation), Adam now was voluble, cheeky and smutty, his charisma and humour shining. He introduced “Christian D’Or” with an ironic, “the next song means a great deal to me, as it’s such a sensitive lyric!”, fielded a bloke (!) shouting, “I love you!” with, “I love you too! Though not in a hippy way – fuck Woodstock… they were all eating each other after Hendrix had played!”, then introduced a brilliant and unexpected “Bathroom Function” with a slightly censored version of the story behind the song (“no names, no times, no places… her name was Sue!”). The rambunctious military march of “Deutscher Girls” was superb, all the more so for Adam proclaiming, “that one made the Top Ten and Pan’s People danced to it [on Top Of The Pops]! One of the highlights of my career!”
Set finale, “Lady” was introduced with a dismissal of “50 Shades Of Grey” (““Jubilee” was better! The lyrics to this [next] song are better!”), “Lady”’s “Carry On”-style playful smut segueing into a driven, dynamic “Fall In”, powering through to the end of a quite superb set. However, superb though that was, the encores even topped that; after thanking fans for picking up the Record Store Day re-release of “Dirk” and announcing that a gold-vinyl version of his breakthrough sophomore effort “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” is next up (full-LP gig/ tour as well, hopefully?), he then introduced said album’s title track as, “my favourite song,” and delivered it as such, the driving tribal drumbeats a base for Adam’s breathtaking performance, all the verve of a man less than half his age, his vocal dispatched with clear-eyed and purposeful intensity and conviction. That however was even topped by a brilliant, soaring “Zerox”, Adam bolting on a guitar to pick out the riff and his band powering through an utterly amazing version of Adam’s best number. “Physical” as ever brought the evening to a close, Adam ripping off his t-shirt and throwing it into the frenzied mosh in one final gesture of appreciation before exiting the stage, after another 1 ½ hour performance of complete and utter class.
I gathered my thoughts and a set-list, then hit the road after another vindication of Adam’s stature. This time we got the punk rock Adam as well; he’d whipped through “Dirk” then quipped through the rest, and in the process further cemented his place as a True Star Of Our Times. He’s 60 years old and “live” he’s still showing the rest how it’s done. Long may that continue!