Adam Ant returned from the 1980s to perform his album Kings Of The Wild Frontier. The 13th Floor sent David Boyle to check it out. Ivan Karczewski provides the pictures.
There’s always a risk that when a band launches into their gig and plays one of their best known albums end-to-end, the impact and flow might get lost in our age of digital streaming, especially in the “pick and mix” music world we live in today. And I have seen a few in my day, from the Pixies playing Doolittle, to Gary Numan and The Pleasure Principal, jeez I even saw the Boss do it with Born In The USA.
Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Luckily those who were at the Adam Ant concert were from the LP era, where albums like Kings Of The Wild Frontier were the staple of most parties and almost always played from start to finish. For me, growing up in Ashburton, Adam and the Ants had a different sound to others, and a swagger that was filled with confidence and a bucket-load of arrogance that many teenagers could connect to and, more importantly, sing along to.
The not-quite-so-full house of punters, who came along to capture their youth and memories of the past, weren’t disappointed with the opening song. Dog Eat Dog kicked off the setlist from a youthful, slightly “Pirates of the Caribbean” looking Adam Ant and his more fresh-faced five-piece band. The two drummers were the initial standout and really made the most impact, filling our ears with the double beats that were his signature sound and taking everyone back to the first time they bought the album and dropped the needle on it.
From there it was true to the album track list with Ant Music raising a roar from the crowd, signaling that this was one of the key songs they had come to hear. There was a tinge of sadness from my perspective that one of the most well-known tracks came out so early but, that aside, a very good rendition was played and really got the crowd singing along.
Yes, there were moments in the first setlist that did lose their way a little, especially for those who didn’t buy the LP at the time. But it reminded me why I love albums so much and hearing the tracks played in order brought back some old memories of mine, especially songs like Feed Me To The Lions, Ants Invasion, Jolly Roger, and of course the title track, Kings of the Wild Frontier.
Surprisingly there was no interaction with the crowd and Adam ranged around the stage like a caged cat with sporadic body flinches and the odd sneering glare out to the back of beyond. That all changed as we came to the end of the album and an apology was offered for his self-indulgence at playing all the songs in one long, uninterrupted blast, with a delightful lady yelling back “we know and I love you”. I don’t think she was on her own either. This was his first visit to New Zealand and I suspect that most who turned up were pleased that they had.
The band then launched into the second part of the show and became a lot chattier. They kicked off with what was the highlight for me Beat My Guest; not on any album, this track can be found as the B side on the Stand And Deliver 45. It’s a favourite of mine as it has a punk edge, played at pace, with a rawness that suggests it was one of his very first songs, written from influences of his time being Television, X-Ray Spex, and New York Dolls in particular. More songs followed that were a mixture from his other albums with Vive Le Rock, Apollo 9, Prince Charming, and of course Stand And Deliver to close the set; sadly the latter didn’t deliver and was notable as my low point of the evening, given how much I loved that song.
With the traditional farewell and thanks the lights fell. A short break, some chanting and they returned for the encore with three tracks: Goody Two Shoes, Red Scab, and Physical before waving goodbye, unlikely to return to our shores again.
I hadn’t quite known what to expect before the night – my fear was, like many bands of that era, they were best left in the past, remembered with fondness and protected by their original recordings. So, I was expecting the worst to be honest, and hoping for something better. Happily, overall, they didn’t disappoint. Adam sang an octave or two lower, missed some words, and let the crowd and backing band sing the bits he couldn’t. But there was enough there for most fans and those who turned up would probably agree they got what they expected and that’s not always a bad thing.
Adam A(i)nt what he used to be, but that’s ok and I was glad to have seen him.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski: