If you’ve been reading any of my ramblings about music you’ll have probably worked out by now that I’d be kind of happier if the last 30 years hadn’t happened and so it shouldn’t really be too surprising that I’d get a ticket for 1981’s biggest pop star when a show’s announced in my home town. Adam Ant was something of a hardbitten survivor even then, having emerged in London with the first wave of punk and then seen his first group pinched by Malcolm McLaren and recast as Bow Wow Wow, but by now he ought to be positively grizzled, what with the arrests and the mental health issues and being the only act that played at Live Aid and then saw their record sales drop. His renaissance has been a long time coming.
But renaissance this is, even if it’s one tempered by a definite undercurrent of chippiness. The man in the buccaneer’s hat and pirate garb now wears heavy-framed glasses and reminds one a bit of a cut-price Johnny Depp but he’s got all his rebel moves down pat and is in tremendous voice. None of the other original Ants are here, but the idiosyncratic line-up featuring two drummers remains and they generate a big chunky no-nonsense noise that fills the barn-like venue nicely. For some numbers Adam is joined by the support band Poussez Posse’s glamorous and pouty singer Georgie, who executes the Diana Dors part from Prince Charming with aplomb. No-one can complain about value for money: this set goes on for over ninety minutes, and with most of the numbers coming in at about three minutes, and more or less non-stop too, that represents a whole lot of songs. You get the sense that Adam resents the suggestion that he’s just a crowd-pleasing cabaret act – while the band play all the hits none of them are dwelt on, and the bulk of the set consists of unfamiliar selections from the upcoming new album (it’s actually really great to hear the early stuff again, they’re canny and robust constructions made up of witty slogans, twangy hooks and irresistible tribal beats and I may have to dig out a Greatest Hits at some point). The obvious encore selection Stand And Deliver is got out of the way early, and when Adam does indulge himself in an introduction it tends to be for a new song, or a very old punk-era one. Truth be told, the length of the set ends up being slightly wearying as there isn’t all that much variation in tempo or texture but you can’t fault the band’s energy level or commitment to the material, and the audience seem to lap it up. They finish with a T Rex medley, which seems bizarrely appropriate somehow. All in all, a pretty impressive comeback for someone who’ll be qualifying for next year’s old age pension before too long now.