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Irving Plaza’s 1,000-capacity room was only half full 30 minutes before the Friday night headliner was due to start, but as soon as Adam Ant took the stage some four minutes after the clock struck 9 p.m., the place was packed.
The first of two shows at the venerable rock institution in Manhattan’s Union Square marked Ant’s return to the venue for the first time in 20 years and the dashing British singer did not disappoint.
Neither did audience members, some of whom dressed up in New Romantic-era styles — puffy pirate shirts and boots — emulating their iconic hero who was a fixture of early MTV. At 58, Adam Ant is a veteran of the 70s London punk scene who achieved great fame and success when he traded his fetish gear and torn T-shirts for more elegant attire, showcased in his lavish videos with Adam and The Ants, which were so incredibly popular at the dawn of the 80s.
Ant was no less frilly and romantically arrayed Friday night, decked out in his trademark Hussar jacket, pirate shirt, red, white and blue sash and bicorne Napoleon hat. Sure, he looks like he should be swigging rum out of the bottle with Johnny Depp — why Ant has not appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean is befuddling — but his is a style so unique and instantly recognizable it would almost be disappointing if he wasn’t fashionable.
Ant has been away from the United States for some and hadn’t toured in 17 years when he first returned last fall. That run was essentially a greatest hits tour and served as a reminder to fans and an alert to newcomers that, not only was the singer back, he was in excellent form. He may not be as svelte as he once was, but all of his moves, style, charm and voice seem unaffected by time.
On this touring round, Ant is supporting his self-released new album, the valorously titled Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter. Backed by a four-piece band featuring two drummers (a staple of his sound from his days with The Ants), Ant opened with the title song, “Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter” and spent two hours whirling through new songs and great hits. His band, The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse features drummers Andy Woodard and Jola, bassist Joe Holweger and guitarist Tom Edwards. They are a young bunch of musicians who challenged and matched Ant’s energy on stage without upstaging him.
The singer kicked into high gear and got heads bobbing with his second song, “Dog Eat Dog” (from Kings of the Wild Frontier) and his electrifying ode to masochism, “Beat My Guest.” Ant performed six new offerings in his 30-song set, including “Hard Men, Tough Blokes;” “Vince Taylor” and the single “Cool Zombie,” all rockers. In fact, the new songs were met with almost as much enthusiasm from the crowd as his old material; but, not surprisingly, it was hits like “Stand And Deliver,” “Wonderful” and “Goody Two-Shoes” that generated the loudest squeals.
An encore of B-sides from his days with the Ants (“Press Darlings;” “Fall In”) and one of his earliest songs, “Lady” were played at breakneck pace before Ant concluded with his trademark closer, “Physical” (a staple of his live shows for years, the song became famous after having been covered by Nine Inch Nails on the Broken EP).
Adam Ant’s live show was as colorful and swaggering as his videos ever were and even after so many years out of the spotlight, the dandy highwayman is still looking flash and grabbing our attention. As the song goes: “The devil take your stereo and your record collection.”
Adam Ant’s three month American tour wraps Sept. 20 at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.
Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
Hard Men Tough Blokes
Stand And Deliver
Room At The Top
Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Whip In My Valise
Stay In The Game
Desperate But Not Serious
Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face
Vive Le Rock
Goody Two Shoes
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