Adam and the Ants, London Islington Assembly Hall – 23rd November

Adam and the Ants, London Islington Assembly Hall – 23rd November


untitled (85)From being Britain’s biggest and most recognisable star for most of the 80s, to being sectioned, stricken with mental illness, Adam Ant has had one hell of a ride on the rollercoaster of fame.

It’s a ride that’s not over yet, if tonight’s show is anything to go by. While this concert might be tagged as a performance of his classic post-punk debut LP ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’, it turns out to be less of a celebration of the past and more a bold statement of where he’s headed to right now. Nostalgia is very low on the agenda, anyway.

For starters, the scratchy, spiky thrills of ‘Dirk…’ sound like they were made yesterday, except perhaps that they are peppered with the kind of musical quirks and twists that most guitar bands either don’t have the imagination or bravery to attempt. And even when that’s done – only about a third of the way into the show, as it transpires – there’s little sign of his biggest hits. There’s no ‘Stand and Deliver’ or ‘Prince Charming’ – the nearest we get are thundering renditions of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ and ‘Dog Eat Dog’, both heavily propelled along by the tribal onslaught of the double-drummered lineup.

Elsewhere, it’s a treasure trove of obscurities and cult classics directed at the most hardcore of fans, from the acoustic hedonism of ‘S.E.X.’ to the Morrissey-esque drama of ‘Vampires’ and the perky kinkiness of encore ‘Whip In My Valise’. The message all along is clear – this is an artist with a whopping back catalogue of quality to flaunt, rather than a novelty act back from the grave.

That and the fact Adam remains as charismatic a figure as ever, one that it’s hard to tear your eyes from for more than a moment. In bandana and motorcycle leathers, he looks ready to wrestle Johnny Depp for his starring role in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘, name checking everyone from Russell Brand (with tongue possibly in cheek) to onetime nearby Islington resident Joe Orton and, er his mum, in some minimal but touching between-song banter. But most impressive of all is THAT voice, powerful and distinctive as ever, sending shivers down spines every time it cuts through the mix.

These kind of ‘heritage’ gigs can go one way or the other, but with a band capable of breathing plenty of life into whatever material they’re faced with, and the impeccable stagecraft of a true star, this is an unqualified success that merely begs the question ‘what will he get up to next?!’

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