So, here we are. Thirty six years since Adam and I first had the pleasure (a riotous, aborted gig in Hull on the original KOTWF Tour), we meet again to relive those glorious days of Antmania. I have loved the Kings Of The Wild Frontier album for decades; it remains timeless, primal, witty and unique, particularly in the context of the teen pop stardom that arose from it (see the link above for a great Alexis Petridis Guardian piece on the Ant phenomenon).
So I arrived at the Barbican with a high degree of excitement, and a little trepidation. Having just finished reading his (excellent) autobiography, I have become much more aware of the extent and depth of Adam’s mental health issues, and was a little worried that they had eroded his performing abilities or that the strain of such a high-profile tour would be having a detrimental effect on his well-being. Those concerns were put to bed immediately by his arrival on stage. Supported by a terrific band anchored by the iconic two (female) drummer attack, he swaggered on in full Hussar/pirate regalia and launched into a roof-raising ‘Dog Eat Dog’, following on with the ‘Kings’ album in its glorious entirety. The audience was up in every sense from the off, which helped to build a cracking, febrile atmosphere. Particular highlights of the album run-through were stupendous versions of ‘Killer In The Home’, ‘Kings…’ itself and ‘The Human Beings’. The young, vibrant band really nailed the dark intensity of the music without being a mere facsimile, and Adam was as great as I was anxiously hoping – in fine idiosyncratic voice, throwing all the signature shapes and shimmies, and with charisma still to burn.
The second half of the show featured a progressively stripped-down Adam playing a selection of the huge post-‘Kings’ hits and reaching back to some of the more esoteric highlights from his post-punk back catalogue ((Zerox, Car Trouble…) and standout B-sides (Beat My Guest, Press Darlings…). Adam strapped on his guitar for much of this section, and whilst the three-guitar, two-drum onslaught was viscerally thrilling, it did rather overwhelm the vocals on occasion.
The show culminated with a euphoric ‘Prince Charming’, those always-powerful, affirmative lyrics lent an affecting resonance by his strange and turbulent journey over the subsequent decades. The gig really should have ended perfectly right there, with Adam leading the audience through a final, joyous accapella chorus; it was followed with a superfluous but still enjoyable encore, highlighted by a somewhat ramshackle version of Get It On, rounding off a fabulous evening.
After all his troubles, this tour in particular has been an absolute triumph for Adam. It’s a real pleasure to see him in rude health and performing with such great passion and style to an adoring audience.
He sang. He wailed. He hollered. He danced. He skipped. He swayed. He stood. He delivered.
Mainly ageing punks and SexPeople, many of whom having made a real effort to dress up Ant-style and contributed a great deal to the electric atmosphere. Although I did see one woman with a sad, thin little pink stripe across her nose…that’s just not trying, love.
It made me think..
Actually, it made me feel…18 again.