And so to the second night in succession to see a punk upstart, started off in the 70’s, was done over by Malcolm McClaren, shone supernova brightly, had trials and tribulations, before returning after a decade and a half hiatus. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the return of the dandy highwayman himself, one Stuart Goddard, aka Adam Ant and his new band The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse.
The crowd at the Academy this evening are an eclectic mix of punks, goths, rockers, general peoples, little peoples, people who’ve dug out the white eyeliner for THE stripe and dressed up, all of a really wide age range, and given that Ant’s greatest hits were in the very early 80s, this is somewhat of a surprise. At the time, a ‘limited’ world of musical access, where Radio 1 and Top of the Pops delivered the music, where your brought vinyl and cassette tape and read the likes of Smash Hits, it was when Adam Ant leapt through the window as a dandy highwayman, he became massive in the UK. For brief moment in time he was different, the double drumbeat of infectious commercial punk, an incredibly good looking uber hero guy – he was loved and hated at the same time. I have a lot to blame him for, pre-teen I was indoctrinated with ‘Ant Music’ and ‘Dog Eat Dog’ – he got me into music, with a taste for the different and alternative, whatever the genre.
So the announcement in late March that he was back, and playing live – meant that most the audience turned up intrigued, most of them not having the opportunity to see this chap live before – Would he deliver? Would he be any good? This is his first outing in 15 years.
Tonight’s gig had a four-band line up. Unfortunately I didn’t get there in time to see Johnny Normal, local electro Brum lad, on stage at 7pm. I did catch Krakatoa, worth a quick mention, for their refreshing inspired British mod /punk (rather than many young bands who take their inspiration from America and the likes of Green Day). Reggae rhythms The Clash would have been proud of, and a great cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”. Worth a look if they do a local date.
And so it’s 9.15pm, and the lights go down, dry ice floats across the stage, and a heart beat track with voice over emits from the sound system. We wait with anticipation for over five minutes before he appears, regaled in pirate hat with feather, classic Adam Ant jacket accompanied by his band featuring two drummers, starting off with ‘Plastic Surgery.’ Song completed – to sound applause from the crowd – here comes ‘Dog Eat Dog’, he peers at the audience through his glasses. The double drummers come into their own, even though his vocals are a tad ropey, the crowd sing along and complete the song with full ovation. He’s better than I thought he would be – does Captain Jack Sparrow far better than Johnny Depp!
A few songs in, he speaks – “Hello” and begins to settle into the set. For ‘Deutscher Girls’ we get introduced to the to female singers – Twinkle Twinkle and Georgie Girl – “This song I got a lot of stick for, ‘cos people didn’t know the Second World War happened…”
“And then one day I jumped out of a window and everything changed….” reference to that video, and we’re into ‘Stand and Deliver’. Everyone sings all the words, the drummers do the job, and I feel a grin on my face. It’s a pleasure to see such a track, get such a response, to a person who was so huge many years ago. Rapturous applause.
Couple of songs later. “ In a past age, you didn’t have to impress Simon Cowell to get famous…… this song I nearly died for….” and we’re into ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier.’ “We are family….” sings the audience, to once again, a rapturous response.
“From the song that started it – to the song that finished it. When I went all ballady and lovey-dovey. Went in the shit house but I like to sing it anyway – this is ‘Wonderful.’
As the set goes on, he gets chattier, expletives everywhere. ‘Ant Music’ too gets a rapturous response. ‘Never Trust a Man with Egg (on His Face)‘ an annotate and dedication to Johnny Thunders, ‘Cleopatra‘ written for Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. ‘Goody Two Shoes’ is far better live than on vinyl – applause raises the roof. Again.
Then a minor rant about loosing the fourth song on the legendary Live Aid show due to ‘some irish bloke deciding to jump off the stage’. Let’s just say he wasn’t complimentary about Bono. The fourth song got played tonight ‘Vive Le Rock.’ “Imagine if I could have played three more songs…”
He’s an engaging character, far more at home being punk, able to say what the hell he likes, self effacing and slightly dangerously unpredictable, ripping up his previous persona “I do drink, I do smoke…” “You’ve got a guilty secret? I have – A f*****ing truckload of ‘em!”
And then it’s time for the first encore – “I get a lot of people in suits asking what punk was about?” An anecdote about how a bunch of punks, including the Pistols, plagiarized this particular song, and we’re into ‘A.N.T.S’ a piss take of Village People’s ‘Y.M.C.A.’.
Then it’s a politically incorrect song “… but as usual I don’t care….” ‘Fat Face’. And then an incredibly messy version of ‘Prince Charming’ as Ant gives up playing his guitar halfway through the song, his vocals ‘aint the best anyway, and it’s held together by the drummers and the audience – once again singing every word, a few doing those hand gestures. This is the song, where you really miss the fact that one time sidekick Marco Pirroni is not on stage with him.
Then it’s off, a rose that was thrown onto the stage in his mouth.
Back on for second encore we get a cover of TRex’s “Get It On” (not necessarily the best version I’ve ever heard) and then “Trent Reznor covered this song and he nicked my money, the arsehole – he’s not a f****ing punk rocker – he’s a businessman.” Ant’s not necessarily making friends with one or two people tonight. And we’re into the final song of the evening, the one that that Reznor covered, “Physical,” during which, this 56 year old punk strips off, bare chested.
And after an hour and three quarters he’s off. What we got here tonight was barely organized chaos. His personal struggles have been well documented. To come out and do this, to deliver, albeit not perfect, but to put yourself right on the line and give a crackingly good if slightly erratic evening – Mr. Goddard, you should be applauded. It was great fun. You couldn’t help smiling. The lyrics were never the most poignant or deepest in the world, but you knew and sang every word to those key hits. He was bizarre in lots of ways and amazingly felt the need to be more ‘punk’ than Lydon, who I’d seen the night before. The musicianship aint great, the voice aint really there, the double drummers – genius to reprise that from the days of the Ants – and as said Pirroni was sorely missed. He should be a cartoon character – but he’s not. He’s bizarre. Outlandish. But class. In a truly bizarre sort of way. Well worth it.
1. Plastic Surgery
2. Dog Eat Dog
3. Beat My Guest
5. Car Trouble
7. Deutscher Girls
8. Stand & Deliver
9. Catholic Day
10. Kings of the Wild Frontier
12. Ant Music
13. Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
15. Goody Two Shoes
16. Vive Le Rock
17. Christian D’Or
20. Fat Fun
21. Prince Charming
22. Get It On
23. Physical (You’re So)
Listening: Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) – Adam & the Ants