It’s been a while. The last time I saw Adam Ant ‘live’ on stage was on 4 October 1984 at Central London’s BBC TV Centre. I was in the studio audience for Top Of The Pops (another story, for another day) and he was leaping around miming to Apollo 9, his fourth solo single. I’m not sure too many people would consider that song a highlight in his pop career, but for me it had that special significance, so I’m really glad it was included in the setlist last night as Adam took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall.
Despite performing at the famous London venue with six other musicians (including two drummers), just like in 1984 there were no actual ‘ants’ present. This was Adam Ant – solo artist – performing songs from all stages of his career on a tour dubbed Anthems – The Singles.
But it was more interesting that just ‘the hits’, as this 25-song set took in B-sides as well as familiar A-sides. Indeed, the show kicked off with a strident Beat My Guest, the flipside of Stand And Deliver and ended nearly two hours later with Physical (You’re So) which could be found on the seven-inch of Dog Eat Dog. Additionally, the show included performances of relative rarities like Fall-In (B-side to Antmusic), Red Scab (B-side to Goody Two Shoes), Greta X (B-side to Vive Le Rock) and B-Side Baby (B-side to Apollo 9).
Fans enjoy a pre-gig beverage in the bar
That’s not to say the big singles were not present and correct. They were. Adam Ant was on great form, looking lean, very relaxed and effortlessly exuding bundles of charisma. He even took it in his stride when a female fan invaded the stage, gave him a kiss and and knocked his hat off! She was bundled away by security in the time-honoured fashion!
Unfortunately, the band themselves, while more than competent, were rather anonymous, looking like Green Day members who had ‘accessorised’ their outfits (tight black jeans etc.) with scarfs around their waists and Adam Ant T-shirts.
The Royal Albert Hall starts to fill 30 mins before showtime
The ‘no frills’ approach on stage occasionally left you yearning for something more ‘visual’ and theatrical. There were no screens or projections, no costume changes (red leather jeans?), and no Diana Dors lookalikes. Having grown up seeing those videos, this seemed a bit of a missed opportunity. Obviously, budgets aren’t what they were… but he had sold out the Royal Albert Hall!
The tribal dual drummers were great, but the band veered a little bit towards LA ‘rawk’ at times. It was therefore a welcome aural palate cleanser when they dusted down the acoustic debut single Young Parisians.
Towards the end of the evening Adam performed Kings Of The Wild Frontier (“every time I sing it, it comes out different”) to the biggest cheers of the night. I was quite worried for the guy a few rows behind me who was screaming himself hoarse, even after the applause had died down. But the fans were every bit as committed as the artist. Middle-aged woman dressing up in military garb and then getting the tube home, balding men with make-up and white stripes across their noses, drinking Old Speckled Hen in the bar. It was great to see!
The likes of Adele and Ed Sheeran can tot up their sales and twitter followers until the cows come home, but there was a love and a loyalty in the room last night that transcended all that. The evening was about music, youth, dreams, passion and being part of a gang. We all know that Adam Ant has come through dark times, but last year he helped to curate a wonderful super deluxe edition of Kings Of The Wild Frontier and criticisms above not withstanding, he was on top form last night. The tour continues tonight at the Brighton Centre.
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Adam & The Ants
Kings of the Wild Frontier super deluxe
Royal Albert Hall 17 May – setlist (exactly as written on the sheets used by the band)
- BEAT MY GUEST
- VIVE LE ROCK
- DOG EAT DOG
- APOLLO 9
- FRIEND OR FOE
- ROOM AT THE TOP
- CAR TROUBLE
- YOUNG PARISIANS
- PRINCE CHARMING
- GOTTA BE A SIN
- PUSS N BOOTS
- CAN’T SET RULES
- GRETA X
- B SIDE BABY
- GOODY TWO SHOES
- STAND AND DELIVER
- LADY/FALL IN
- RED SCAB
Adam Ant Anthems – further tour dates.
- Thursday, May 18, Brighton, Centre
- Saturday, May 20, Bournemouth, Int. Centre
- Sunday, May 21, Leicester, De Montfort Hall
- Monday, May 22, Ipswich, Regent Theatre
- Wednesday, May 24, Watford, Colosseum
- Thursday, May 25, Southend, Cliff’s Pavilion
- Saturday, May 27, Leeds, Arena
- Sunday, May 28, Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall