Review: Adam Ant – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 30th November 2012.

There are few people that still embody the spirit of the 1980s in the way Adam Ant does. Since his meteoric rise to fame at the beginning of the decade, his success in the music industry has fluctuated with his ever-changing look. He’s gone from genre to genre, but always maintained an original and often innovative sound. After mental health problems and a long, much needed break from the music industry, he’s made a massive comeback and brought back the drum-heavy sounds and costumes that made him a star. Any fans familiar with his autobiography or past interviews will know of Adam Ant’s workaholic attitude to music, and it won’t surprise that tonight is the last night on the 19-date UK tour, even after touring early this year, touring the US in between, appearing on television on both sides of the Atlantic and finishing his brand new album, all before heading to Europe to continue the tour, only to return to the UK in May.

Tonight’s show is like a huge celebration of everything from the early Adam and the Ants songs, to the brand new Adam Ant songs recorded with The Good The Mad & The Lovely Posse. His choice to return with a new band instead of resurrecting the Adam and the Ants name, for which he has the rights to, is something to be respected (take notes, Axl Rose).

When the man himself steps onto the stage, he’s met with a deafening roar of admiration from the crowd. The dandy highwayman’s outfit looks like a modern take on his early 80s look, with a Stand & Deliver-esque hat and a jacket that looks just like his old iconic Kings of The Wild Frontier jacket, sans sleeves. The women that were swooning over him as teenagers, are doing so again. The men who wanted to be him, still want to be him.

The first song, Press Darlings (the b-side to the Kings of the Wild Frontier single), is a brilliant way to begin the night. Adam covers every inch of the stage, running around without missing a word of the song and flinging the microphone around while simultaneously bellowing into it. The song is also the perfect way to introduce The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse’s drumming duo of Jola and Andy. The inclusion of two drummers is essential to Adam Ant’s sound, and the drums in Press Darlings are testament to this.

The only thing more remarkable than the singer’s energy and enthusiasm, is his voice. So many singers manage to get away with poor vocals purely because fans will buy tickets out of nostalgia, but Adam Ant’s voice is a thing of beauty in 2012 as it was in 1981. This is shown off particularly, for Kings of the Wild Frontier. The opening verse is sung over the sound of the entire Shepherds Bush Empire chanting along with him, and as the unforgettable drum beat begins, so does Adam screaming into the microphone. He lets out a ferocious scream, and seconds later he’s jumping about and singing the next verse. Amazing. He once said he thought of his voice like an instrument, and tonight, the instrument is finely tuned.

Adam Ant’s solo stuff works well. The catchy Desperate But Not Serious has everyone dancing, and doesn’t appear to lose much from the absence of trumpets and saxophones. However, it’s in the early punk songs and b-sides where Adam and the band really excel. Songs from the 1979 album Dirk Wears White Sox are performed live up to the same standard as the original recording, with the vocals possibly even sound better than they did at the time. Whip in my Valise packs a punch and Catholic Day has Adam miming along to the lyrics about the JFK assassination like he’s in some kind of dark comedic pantomime. The long time obsessive fans are appeased with the inclusion of rarities and demos. Rubber People serves to successfully show off how fast and strong his voice can be.

New song Vince Taylor gels into the setlist flawlessly, and sounds just as great as any other song played, as does his latest single Cool Zombie. The Western style guitar and backing vocals from Georgie Girl and the rest of the Posse give the first single from the new album a fuller sound, and judging by the reception, the album will be well received by Ant-fans. When he plays Antmusic, the crowd goes into a frenzy of dancing and singing, which is only furthered when he follows it with the classic Goody Two Shoes. The addition of 90s tracks Room At The Top and Wonderful add to the insane variety on off tonight, with the instrumental section of Room at the Top giving Adam a chance to show off his dance moves and work the crowd. Some men were just meant to be in front of a crowd.

Adam Ant hasn’t just come back, he’s returned with such a ferocity that it’s hard to believe he’d ever been gone. The reappearance in music has been well timed and the support he’s received has been phenomenal. The dauntingly impressive setlist would please any Ant-fan, whether they prefer early Adam and the Ants or his post-Ants solo material. He might not be the chart-slaying pop star he once was, but he has a large following of devoted fans worldwide, as well as the artistic integrity that some would say can’t be maintained within the world of #1 singles. There’s still no method in his madness, and there’s still pride about his manner.

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