Tonight, the opening date of his biggest tour in years, Adam strolls out in his finest French Revolutionary outfit. Two hours later, having disrobed layer by layer – first the tight-fitting, gold-braided jacket, then the airy linen shirt and finally, at the end, the Adam Ant vest (oh yes, he’s wearing his own merchandising) – he leaves the stage stripped to waist, which isn’t a pretty sight. He’s not what you would call chubby, but he’s had considerably more pies than Iggy Pop. His Napoleon hat remains firmly jammed on his head all night long, though. It doesn’t move a millimetre. It must have been superglued on, unlike his awkwardly large, black-rimmed spectacles, which he keeps having to push back up his nose with his index finger. Every time that he does it, I can’t help but think of Ronnie Corbett sitting on his big chair telling a shaggy dog story.
Oh balls. I said I wouldn’t do this. Adam Ant has long been an easy target for cynical bastard music journos. But actually, to be fair, when he’s got at least some clothes on, he’s looking good for a man rapidly approaching 60. He’s still sounding good too. Despite an erratic mix, his voice is terrific throughout. A gold star for his band as well. The two drummers (oh yes, he has two drummers) mean there’s plenty of rib rattling and the guitarist isn’t fazed that he’s following in the footsteps of Matthew Ashman and Marco Pirroni, who played such keys roles in Adam And The Ants. I’m not so taken with the pair of flesh-flashing female backing singers, who are more interested in their suspenders than their harmonies, but they’re not onstage half the time and are clearly not there just for their vocals anyway.
The focus of the show is as much on Adam’s punk beginnings as it is on his chart hits. “Cleopatra”, “Cartrouble”, “Whip In My Valise”, “Zerox” and “Deutscher Girls” are some of the early songs to get airings and there’s a lot of stuff from “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, including a ferocious version of the title track. There’s also a sprinkling of new material, most notably a paean to Vince Taylor which is introduced with a dig at Morrissey, and a crafty medley of T-Rex’s “Get It On” and “20th Century Boy”, the flipping back and forth between the two songs working a treat. When it comes to the big smasheroos, the arrangements are not without surprises, “Prince Charming” getting stripped down to vocals, drums and little else besides. “Stand And Deliver” and “Goody Two Shoes” both flirt with chaos, but I’m glad the band haven’t rehearsed the life out of everything. Raucous energy beats musical perfection any day of the week.
Adam stays at the centre from start to finish, ever the entertainer, the showman, the ringmaster. He’s lost none of his pantomime skills (oh no he hasn’t), but I wonder if some of the crowd were expecting something slicker and poppier than this. Three guys near me keep exchanging confused glances, although I have a feeling they were confused already. The white stripes they’ve painted across their faces don’t go with their smartly pressed shirt collars and V-neck sweaters. They move even less than Adam Ant’s hat and, at the end of the set, their white stripes are fully intact and their shirt collars unruffled.
In contrast, most of the others who have dipped into their children’s facepaints before heading out – and there are a lot of them – are in a right state when the lights go up. One bloke looks like a post-apocalyptic clown, which I found extremely disturbing because I think I recognised him as my GP. I guess that’s the trouble with going to a gig so close to home. I just hope he never wants to stick his finger up my bum.
Adam Ant photo by FromeTV
Selling 225,000 tickets in the space of a little more than an hour is a remarkable achievement, but I’m not convinced that the frenzied reaction to The Stone Roses’ reunion gigs at Manchester’s Heaton Park next June is an indication of what an important band they are. I think it probably says more about how, from their mid-30s onwards, most people wish they were several years younger than they are and get a bit woozy at the prospect of an evening re-living their past, which is something that music can help them to do more quickly and more completely than anything else.
Adam Ant talked about The Stone Roses when he appeared on last week’s “This Week”, BBC2’s zany political overview programme. Adam’s on the comeback trail himself (starting his forthcoming tour with a warm-up show in Frome, just down the road from me) and pointed out that what people want to hear at reunion gigs are the hits. He’s dead right, of course. So if I had one of those tickets for Heaton Park I’d be concerned at the news that, as well as playing live again, Ian Brown says the Roses are planning to record a new album. Let’s face it, most of the fine folk going along to Heaton Park won’t want to hear much stuff from the second album, let alone stuff from a possible third. I’d also be worried about the group spending a few months locked down in the recording studio, with all the potential conflict that might bring. There’s time for quite a lot of arguing and falling out between now and next June.
In all the media hoo-ha about The Stone Roses in recent days, I especially enjoyed a piece by The Independent on Sunday football correspondent Steve Tongue, who picked up on something bassist Mani said on Sky’s “Soccer AM” in 2006. Mani, a diehard Manchester United supporter, had joked that the band would only reform “after Man City won the European Cup”. Manchester City were flirting with relegation from the Premiership back then and finished that season losing nine of their last 10 games. Fast forward to today and City are sitting on top of the table, fresh from thrashing Manchester United 6-1 on Sunday, and pushing for a place in the last 16 of the UEFA European Champions League. I don’t suppose Mani will be best pleased if City were to make it all the way to the Champions League final. And as Steve Tongue notes, the final takes place on 19 May, a mere six weeks before The Stone Roses’ Heaton Park gigs.
Ian Brown photo by Bartosz Madejski at Bart Photography