Whatever happened to Adam Ant? Unless you paid attention to the news (mostly in the UK press) where fans could hear of the public antics related to Adam Ant’s mental health issues, one wouldn’t be able to answer. For many on this side of the pond, not much has been heard from him since his 1982 hit “Goody Two Shoes,” which spawned a music video that afforded him the massive staying power of a place in American pop culture. So it was a welcome shock when Adam Ant announced plans for his first U.S. tour in 16 years with his new band The Good, The Mad And The Lovely Posse, leading up to the release of his newest album in the early part of 2013. One postponement and several months later, he finally arrived at the Best Buy Theater in New York to bring the new romantic era back to fans, if only for a night.
As the first notes of “Plastic Surgery” echoed through the halls, Adam took the stage to a thunderous reception from the ravenously eager audience, as they instantly reverted back to their teens for the duration of the evening. Admittedly, some might call the sight of a 57-year-old man jumping around on stage in a buccaneer outfit singing punk grounded new romantic-era tunes silly. I would simply shrug and call it Adam Ant, and a truly awesome sight at that. What a show he put on, launching through two hours and nearly 30 songs with the energy of his younger days, while easily remaining in perfect harmony with his equally talented backing band. As he propelled from “Surgery” immediately into “Dog Eat Dog,” the crowd became electrified even further, with the band trampling through nearly ten songs before stopping to banter with the audience.
There were some expected signs of wear and tear in his voice throughout the show, with a few off-key moments and slightly diminished vocal capacity popping up along the way (the chorus of “Beat My Guest” comes to mind.) But he rolled with the minor hitches, using his seemingly limitless in leading the eager crowd through a succession of older hits like “Stand and Deliver” and “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and obscurities such as “Deutscher Girls”, while thankfully managing to avoid even skimming nostalgia. The real highlight of the evening came from the unveiling of “Vince Taylor” from his upcoming album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, a song which managed to unveil a more polished sound while allowing fond memories of album’s past to seep in. No fans lost there.
In fact, Adam Ant’s renewed enthusiasm for playing out is what made his set a vastly different experience than one would expect, if a person’s only experience with his music being from MTV videos or albums. What sounded like new romantic/new wave-pop (an obvious base of punk ethics buried beneath catchy hooks and lighter lyrics) in past times has now evolved into a rougher, raw sound. He uses no noticeable backing tracks or synthesizers and kept the engineer-triggered effects to a minimum, which breathed new life into his songs. The cheesy horns dominant through “Goody Two Shoes” were eliminated, instead driven by a more aggressive drumbeat and the sappy pop of “Wonderful” melted and became more of a Rock ballad.
Finishing on the high notes of a fantastic surprise cover of T. Rex’s “Get It On” and old favorite “Physical (You’re So)” brought the evening to a well deserved close. Welcome back, Adam Ant.
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
Stand and Deliver
Room at the Top
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Whip in My Valise
Desperate but Not Serious
Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)
Goody Two Shoes
Vive Le Rock
Get It On
(T. Rex cover)
Physical (You’re So)
Just one comment Adam Ant was “never” new romantic and recent interviews with him show how much he hates this association. Post punk would be more accurate…
Thanks for your comment. I am well aware as to what Adam Ant has said about being linked to any part of the New Romantic/New Wave movements, but that unfortunately doesn’t change the fact that the media at large has placed him withing the ranks of both. It doesn’t help that his greatest years of success happened to fall within the peaks of both eras, and his music resonated the most within the fan-base that each carried, or that his look really fit what the public seemed to think artists of the era (whether they belonged or not) looked like. The stigma was applied by journalists of the era, just aching to put a face to whoever they believed to be at the forefront of the “hottest” musical trends, and it remains to this day. Present times especially, the meaning of New Wave has been morphed into more of a broader category, with New Romanticism being pegged as a direct sub-genre. Most general musical fans believe that any music made in the early-eighties which feature bubbly hooks and/or synthesizers is automatically New Wave, which you seem to know otherwise to be false. I personally don’t agree, but if you ask most people who have a mere casual interest in music, that just about sums up what they think. In fact, most people don’t even know what New Romantic is period, it’s all the same to them. However, I will say that many of his songs do fit in with both styles sound-wise, then again they also tended to be his biggest hits, while his more interesting tracks were ignored (like most bands). His look didn’t help either. To him, being dressed like a pirate dandy was just being Adam Ant, but to the public he was the look of the New Romantics. Remember, New Romanticism itself was just as much about the look as it was the music, and dressing like he did at that time fit the effeminate image of the New Romantic movement, which again led to easier pigeonholing. I don’t feel that any label at all is necessary when talking about Adam Ant. Music journalists, snobs, super-fans and the general public have bickered over what truly defines New Wave/New Romantic/Post-Punk, and then immediately rush to place any bands that they like into whatever category they feel they identify with the most. In other words, it’s a Junior High kickball game for music lovers. Regardless, of what band/solo act’s look or sound is identified as whatever genre, Music is Music. After all is said and done, I love his music, I went to see his show, and I wrote a positive review. To argue about proper labeling (when in fact he wasn’t labeled, the eras were referenced, not directly applied to him) , detracts from the fact that review is encouraging people to go and see him. The piece is a live performance review, not an editorial, feature, or band/solo history. If you don’t like how Adam Ant is labeled, write to the ones who shoved him into musical categories for the sake of neat categorization, and argue your (or Adam’s) case. Otherwise, just take the review for what it says: GO AND SEE ADAM ANT!
If you understood anything about Adam Ant’s music – he was NEVER associated with New Romantic, New Wave movement. He was first and foremost playing “Antmusic” and started out as a hard core punk rock musician. He stated that in order to avoid being bracketed and wrongly branded with some musical movement he had nothing to do with – he always called his music “Antmusic”. Adam Ant has repeatedly stated in a zillion interviews he had nothing to do with New Romantic, nor New Wave music.