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