I was quite prepared for Adam Ant to be a bit of a shambles. I’ve been vaguely following his adventures over the last couple of years, and when I saw, months ago, that he’d be playing a gig in Bristol, I booked a pair of tickets straight away, certain in the knowledge that, assuming he showed up, he’d either be an incoherent mess or totally brilliant.
Incoherent mess would have made for good stories, at least; thankfully he turned out to be totally brilliant.
We were late arriving (stupid Bristol traffic, stupid 10-storey car park that only had spaces on the top floor) at a packed venue. I’d seen that it was sold out but wasn’t quite prepared for how full the venue was; the floor, the bar area, the staircases and the balcony were just rammed with a great of mix people – ageing punks, fortysomethings revisiting their teen pop years, kids dressed as dandy highywaymen… the works. We managed to squeeze into a space with a fairly good view just as the band took to the stage and opened with Plastic Surgery, an early song recorded for Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, followed by Dog Eat Dog.
Which set the pace for the entire gig; a perfect mix of the early stuff that he seems to love the most, and the crowd-pleasers that are the reason that the place was so completely packed. All the hit singles – barring, understandably, Ant Rap – were present and correct and performed superbly by his excellent backing band, and distributed perfectly between a mass of lesser-known classics (although I’d guess that the vast majority of the crowd knew most of those by heart as well). The only songs I didn’t know were B-Side Baby and, from the promised new album, Vince Taylor. Which turned out to be a pretty damn good, garnering proper applause afterwards rather than the polite appreciation that new material often receives.
And he still has it; the theatricality, the moves and the voice as well, hitting all the highs without having to rely on the lovely backing singers who were brought out for quite a few numbers. He looked the part without looking ridiculous, carrying off the hussar jacket and Napoleon hat and all the trimmings as only Adam Ant really can. He didn’t start reading poetry at us or lapse into rambling shouty covers of Born in the USA; he put on a blinding show, delivering blistering versions of the hits and bloody loads more besides, finishing off with a single encore of Prince Charming, T.Rex’s Get It On, and Physical. It amounted to about an hour and a half of ace, and left everyone wanting more. Which is just what a good pop star should do, right?
During his recent revival Adam’s sometimes given the impression of, let’s say a vulnerable middle-aged man being egged on, dressed up and pushed on-stage, perhaps by ambitious youngsters keen for a free ride on his coattails, with very mixed results. Last night he looked very much in control and gave an epic performance. If he comes back to this part of the world I’ll be there, and I’ll get there earlier so that I can be down the front; let’s just hope he manages to ride this high for as long as he can.