In its long and illustrious history the Brudenell has had many memorable nights of top musical entertainment. But walking into this former gentleman’s social and recreational club in west Leeds this evening there is a real sense of anticipation in the air. Ticket touts in the car park, sold out signs across the entrance and heightened security on the door all point towards something very special happening here tonight.
And the cause of all this excitement is none other than Adam Ant. Once the world’s biggest pop star – something to which a string of Top Ten albums and singles in the early ‘80s firmly attest – the erstwhile dandy highwayman is here in West Yorkshire as part of the Dirk tour in which he and his five-piece band will play the 1979 debut album by Adam and the Ants, Dirk Wears White Sox in its entirety.
Despite the fact that he turned 60 last November, Ant still looks every inch the ageless pop star. Dressed from head to toe in black leather – a nod surely in the direction of ’68 Comeback Special Elvis – he tops off his striking appearance with a colourful bandana and straw boater. Age and the ravages of a well-documented mental illness have not withered his matinée idol good looks and his fluid movement on stage belies that of a man who has now entered his seventh decade on this earth.
And the music has fared equally well. Dirk Wears White Sox remains a fearless exercise in creative nihilism, a dangerous, often sleazy blast of raw post-punk energy. Seriously overlooked upon release it is a record that has now been reinvented in the critical consciousness as something of a lost classic. Here Ant and his five cohorts nod respectfully towards the album’s venerable history – playing it as they do in the exact same order as its original track listing – yet somehow manage to imbue it with a far greater visceral edge.
‘Cartrouble (Parts 1 & 2)’ splutters into life, propelled along by Ant’s long-time preference for two drummers each one a perfect complement for the other. Their unfaltering discipline throughout the show is a lesson in the art of perfect compromise. Over their relentless rhythm the twin guitars slash and burn, cranking out wave after wave of seditious post-punk pop while Ant holds centre stage and your unflinching gaze with his magnetic presence and the still mightily impressive range and power of his voice.
Having dispatched Dirk Wears White Sox in the grandest of fashions, Ant then proceeds to confound expectation by eschewing the most obvious staging posts of his career. Whilst we do get a rather fabulous ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ – complete with its timeless Burundi beat drum tattoo – there is to be no place tonight for ‘Antmusic’, ‘Stand and Deliver’, ‘Prince Charming’ or ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Instead Ant revisits ‘Plastic Surgery’ which was featured in the 1978 release of Derek Jarman’s cult punk film, Jubilee; the more obscure Adam and the Ants back pages of ‘Bathroom Function’ and early B-side ‘It Doesn’t Matter’; and a coruscating finale of ‘Physical (You’re So)’, each and every one spiralling more and more towards the precipice of a huge guitar-metal sound.
Listening to voices as they trail out into the evening air, it is clear that even after all these years Adam Ant continues to divide opinion. Many, you suspect and despite clear advertising to the contrary, had turned up at the Brudenell expecting to hear a cavalcade of his greatest hits. But to Adam Ant’s great credit and in spite of all the travails he may have suffered in the interim, he is still not prepared to play it safe and just rest easily upon the most notable of his past laurels.
Photo credits: DinkyVintage and https://www.facebook.com/antmusicofficial
The Dirk tour continues at:
24th April – Warwick, The Copper Rooms
25th April – Northampton, Roadmender