Friday, June 24, 2011

Ant Music For Sox People

Picture from the always excellent Like Punk Never Happened

He was the UK's last proper pop star. I've got the albums, the singles, the box sets and even worn the t-shirt (Frontier Tour 1980). But in just over 30 years I've only hit two Adam Ant gigs. The first at Chelmsford Odeon - when Adam was simmering up to Ant Music's boiling point and the audience still a molten mix of snarling skins and spitting punks, who would break into random bouts of head-cracking and high flying fist-fights at the spill of a pint or any period of extended 'bogging'.

The second was last Wednesday. In a loaded, low-key Southend sweat-box venue where Adam reanimated a patchwork of his former personalities: King of the Wild Frontier, the Dandy Highwayman, Prince Charming - rendering them into a multi-sided composite of the characters that's almost Johnny Depp meets Axl Rose with a Bolan-ish tone. Read what you will into that..

Dig through the Ant Music back catalogue and all the hits are 'bankers' - perfect pop constructions. But for me, the magic always lay buried (pirate style) in the muscular punk of the early works, the B-sides and the bootlegs. If you'd asked me to rattle off a fantasy set-list..Fat Fun, Fall Out, Beat My Guest,  Lady,  Vive Le Rock would have been a few of the tunes. And as if by magic - Adam beat me to it, drafting up the dream set-list of hits, oddities and obscurities.

You can't help feeling slightly sorry for the those only there to hear the hits. This being a playlist pooled from the fanzine-era and Dirk days of darker matters: Cleopatra, Plastic Surgery, Physical, Deutscher Girls

Adam  now moves at a more stately pace and doesn't present with the same breathless energy, or the full frontal attack of the young  up 'n' comer he once was, but the presence is just as punchy, the voice is still intact - switching from crowd-rousing growler to crooner boom. The jawline and cheekbones are still sword sharp, while the band (with double drummers) blitz it like a Spitfire.

Unbelievably Adam Ant is nudgingly close to his sixtieth birthday.

Adam Ant at Chinnerys - Picture by Piley

An overlooked oddity is the still unreleased title track of Dirk Wears White Socks

Adam and The Ants - Dirk Wears White Socks

You can catch a snatch of the lyrics on this Dirk era tee - and while we're at it, the BBC only recording of Ligotage is worth bagging...


John Medd said...

A troubled man. But, obviously, a troubled man who can still hit the 'on' button when he wants/needs to. Did you catch On The Ropes with John Humphries? Fascinating stuff.

23 Daves said...

A "Dirk" set? I would never have been able to make this gig, unfortunately, but I'm hugely envious of that news. Unlike you, I own a "Dirk" T-shirt rather than a "Frontier" one.

It really is about time the general public stopped thinking of Adam Ant as some kind of eighties novelty and realised there was some utterly groundbreaking material in there too (parts of "Dirk" are among the best art-punk of the era). His fans always knew this, but amongst the mainstream public the fact seems to have got lost.

Oh, and... Jarvis Cocker was the last proper pop star, surely?

Jon Peake said...

Interesting to see to varying reports of the gig (yours and ISBWs). Someone I work with also went to see him and said he was brilliant.

Mondo said...

If he's ever in the Wetwang area J. Get yourself along. I'll check out the link.

It was a great night Dave, balanced in favour of the earlier work rather than hits. My Frontier tee, I was lucky enough to grab that in December 80 when they were still culty rather than kiddie - but lost it, long ago. Jarvis I would say he's a 'personality' rather than pop star. One of my bench-tests would be the wardrobe test. A) would the stage wear stand out on the street: Bowie, Bolan, Adam etc...yes. Not so much with Jarvis. Also do the audience dress like the artist. With so many bands since Britpop - dresswise, there's not much diff' between the audience and artist.

Mrs M (a huge fan at the time) is from the 'never revisit your idols' school of thought Jon, and was fidgitingly cynical before the gig, but came out full of beans..

Miss Peelpants said...

Sounds like he's hitting his stride. I saw him at the first gig at La Scala, and it was pretty incredible - sounds like it's got better and better!

Ishouldbeworking said...

I accept that I am probably in a minority of one regarding how I felt about Tuesday's Brighton gig. Put it down to my job - I do have trouble clocking off sometimes.

Nazz Nomad said...

good for him! glad to read here that he can still "bring it". funny- this morning deutcher girls popped up to play on my itunes.
i don't think we'll see adam back here in the states again, but bless his little ant heart for carrying on.

Mondo said...

Yeah, he's still got it Miss P!

Perhaps it's that I've seen some real horror stories ISB - Brian Connolly and Steve Strange and Adam was nowhere near that much of a mess.

Have you got the BBC Sessions album Nazz? Great versh of Deutscher Girls on there and some other rarities too.

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Furtheron said...

Makes me feel old - I remember him being a bit of an underground mover in 1980ish before the big hits... I never really got into his stuff though

Troubled man in life - I hope this "revival" is good for him whatever else