Adam Ant. Photo: Edward Fielding
Adam Ant has had a second chance at international fame in the last couple years. For almost two decades, Mr. Ant has struggled with mental illness and legal troubles involving record labels. That's is all past him now, and he's moved on to the next step in his career as an independent artist with his own label. Recently, I interviewed Mr. Ant in more detail about the last 20 years, his new album, Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, and his plans with the his new found role as a label owner. Mr. Ant recently performed at The Complex in Salt Lake City and it was nothing short of “Wonderful” (see what I did there?).
When I got to the warehouse-ish venue it was––much like Peter Murphy's concert the week prior––filled to the brim with people in their late 40s to early 50s. Apparently, my generation didn't get the memo on why they should go see such an influential musician. There were more than enough people dressed up as different versions of Captain Jack Sparrow or '90s-puffy-shirted Axel Rose––they were trying to look Ant-like, but they all came off like drunk Johnny Depps or plain old douchebags drinking Coors.
The opening band for Adam Ant was the LA-based band Prima Donna. They sounded like a pop-punk/gram rock mash-up, someone safe to tour with because they have an “across the genre” sound to them. Nothing too offensive, nothing too wild, exactly what I would expect from a New Found Glory concert or Green Day. They have a killer keyboard player, though, so they've got that going for them, and they've played with other great bands like Sham 69, The Undertones and The Stranglers, so I bet they have some pretty cool stories to tell. The crowd liked them, but I felt it was a bit pretentious of Kevin Preston to closeout the show with the guitar windmill maneuver.
Not to be one-uped by grandiose gestures, Adam Ant opened his show with Tchaikovsky's “1812 Overture,” particularly the famous “cannon” movement, followed by an audio excerpt from the film The Charge of the Light Brigade, a movie that I am not familiar with, but probably has something to do with the poem that it shares a name with. After that moment of grandure, the band and Mr. Ant walked onstage and opened the show with “Marrying the Gunner's Daughter,” a song funkier than his older work. Mr Ant's stage presence is much different from what I've seen from the ’80s. He still dances, always moving around the stage and holding dramatic poses. What has changed are the expressions on his face––they are much more animated from what I've seen of the earlier years. Also, there are moments where Ant would step up to the edge of the stage and scowl at the people below him, like some sort of challenge to the audience. Then, 30 seconds later, he would do a fanciful twirl––a very confusing message.
Ant was dressed in an elaborate costume: A large black bicorn hat with black and red feathers adorning the left side, a large royal blue Hussar tunic with gold embroidery and two bandanas attached to the sides of his pants. In my interview, Ant described his character as being “what Prince Charming would be like after 30 years,” and I could see it.
Ant's band consists of a guitar player, a bassist and two drummers to accommodate the very percussive sound Ant had during the '80s. Ant played all of the favorites people were wanting to hear, with a mix of some of his new stuff: “Cleopatra,” “Prince Charming,” “Striped,” “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and “Goody Two Shoes.” The highlight of the night was his performance of “Antmusic,” which isn't really dependent on Ant's performance, but the coordination between his drummers. It began with taps on the sides of their snare drums and moved into a classical arrangement that sounded like a full percussive section, even though it was only two people playing. The song then moved into a call and receive chant: “A new royal family/A wild nobility/We are the family.” The room freaked out into a middle-aged frenzy––people were dancing awkwardly with their partners, even those in the seated section had their hands up. It's my favorite song of Ant's, but imagine your mom and dad making out next to you at that moment and you can see why my desire to get lost in the moment was deterred.
The most surprising moment of the show was when he performed “Car Trouble,” one of Adam Ant's better songs off of his freshman album Dirk Wears White Sox. An hour into the performance and Ant, who is in his mid-50s, was still moving and dancing around the stage in his own Little Richard meets Michael Stipe style. He was sweating pretty bad, but that's because he had three layers of clothes on in late July.
Closing the show with “Physical,” I felt nothing but happiness for Ant. The man is on top of the world on his own terms and he seems happy about it. No bosses. No record labels. No shitty deals and scams. Just a man and his creative will to do something bigger.