I bought tickets to see Adam Ant in January. The original date for the show was February 7th, but it was rescheduled for September 21st when it turned out his new album was delayed until Fall. When I heard that the new record was delayed again until early in 2013 I feared the show too would be bumped, but thankfully it went on as rescheduled.
Opening for Adam was a local band called The Justin Kipker Show, fronted by the titular Justin. At first I thought they might be having a bit of a go at Adam, for they came out in odd, sort of steampunk, kinda cowboy, kinda cabaret costumes. However, once the music started and they were playing some varient of say, Nick Cave in a “spooky” Doors-go-surf-rock melange, I figured this was their thing and not a sad send-up. Neither myself, nor my wife, nor the crowd was too interested in their set of originals. They closed with a cover of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” that wasn’t too bad, though it ended up being the second best T. Rex cover of the evening.
To be fair, nobody was there to see the opening band. This sellout crowd was for Adam. It was weird to be at a show and be part of the younger end of the audience demographic; I would say the median age was late 40s to early 50s, with a good smattering of folks within 20 years of that on either end, and a few families with young kids to skew the average. But this was mainly folks reliving their teen years, and many a Pirate Grannie were to be seen in the crowd.
Adam took the stage in proper Dandy coat and a bicorne hat, worn rakishly athwart like a bespectacled and mustachioed Napoleon.
[This is not my photo. Mine suck and are from far away. This is from Chris Matthews, taken at the Apple Cart Festival earlier this year]
He and his band — the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse — launched quickly and powerfully into “Plastic Surgery”; a surprising opener, but one which heralded that this was Adam in full rock mode, guitar heavy and forceful, more akin to the original Ants of the Dirk Wears White Sox era than the heavy horns of his pop megastardom. Over the next 90 minutes or so the band tore through 28 or 29 songs (I don’t think they played “Deutscher Girls”, but otherwise the setlist matched the one from Austin a few nights earlier). Though he played most of the big hits he had both here and abroad (though no “Apollo 9” nor “Puss ‘n Boots”), it was the deep cuts and b-sides that surprised me. I would never have guessed that the set would include “Beat My Guest”, “Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)”, “Lady/Fall-In”, “Christian D’Or”, “Fat Fun”, or “Red Scab”. When that last song started up I turned to my wife with an ear to ear grin and said, “I can’t believe they’re playing this!”
I was also excited that this show featured so much of the material from the original late 70s Ants releases. It made up about a third of the set, and the one new song, “Vince Taylor”, was more akin to that sound than to the popstar era. It makes me hopeful that the upcoming Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter will be a solid addition to his catalog.
But back to the show. Adam took a few songs to warm up his voice, and he missed a few vocal jumps in “Dog Eat Dog”. But by the time he launched into “Car Trouble” he was nearly note perfect, with no strain on those high notes that launch each chorus. His voice continued to be strong and supple throughout the night, with no sign of diminishing capacity as he nears 60 years of age. He may not be as svelte as he once was, and his catlike grace is now one of an aged feline with a bad hip, but this was a man giving everything to his audience and getting pure adoration in return. The man still has charisma by the bucketful; you couldn’t take your eyes off of him for more than a few seconds. He has a towering presence.
As I said, he had the crowd hypnotized. These were fans, not people out for a casual night of entertainment, and the singing along, screaming and roars of applause were ever present. It was like the Iron Maiden show I saw a little while back, a tribe of like minded individuals there to pay homage as much as to listen to the music. To hear a packed house of around 1000 people sing “A new royal family/A wild nobility/We are the family” along with Adam and his band at the start of “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” was thrilling.
I mentioned earlier that the opener’s best song was the second best T. Rex tune of the evening. Well, Adam and co. played “Get It On” in the middle of the encore, and they made it properly Ant-like. The dual drummers definitely gave it more kick, and Adam rolling from it into “Prince Charming” made perfect sense; Adam’s evolution of the Dandy In The Underworld laid bare.
I told my wife there is only one possible closer, for nothing can follow it. And when Adam sang, “You’re. So. Phys-i-cal!” and the quick snare figure led to that low bass rumble, I merely nodded. It might not be the best Adam Ant song, but it’s a singular work, the most grinding of grinding sex songs. A perfect sweaty end to the evening.