(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - September 13th, 2019)
Adam Ant (actually born Stuart Leslie Goddard) may well be better known as the flamboyant Englishman who gained massive popularity as the lead singer of New Wave/Post-Punk group Adam and the Ants (which was actually a play on the title of an old Hannah-Barbera cartoon, "The Atom Ant Show"), but he also had a successful solo career afterwards.
Scoring ten (10) UK top ten hits between 1980 and 1983, including three #1's, his biggest crossover was sadly also his last musical offering - 1995's 'Wonderful.'
And so, here tonight on the sixth night of his North American Friend Or Foe 2019 Tour, the singer once voted sexiest man in America (by the viewers of MTV) was primed to send his fans into yet another bi-perennial frenzy.
With his opening act the quite brilliant, enthusiastic, and down right spunky all-girl foursome known as the Glam Skanks already having riled up the packed house, come 9.15pm the house lights went down, the stage lights began to ominously glow, and one by one Adam's 5-piece backing band took to the stage.
As (relatively) long time lead guitarist Will Crewdson - who continues to do his best Marco Pirroni impression at all times - strikes the opening chords to the first, and title track 'Friend or Foe' (of which Adam is performing his 1982 solo album for the first time in its entirety on this new tour), Adam himself casually wanders onto stage.
Manically stalking the small wooden area, his facial twitches and clenched teeth popping the heavy black mascara around his eyes; turning them bewitchingly menacing also, once done with that he was quickly onto both 'Something Girls' and one of my all-time fav Ant solo cuts, the hipsway bop of 'Place in the Country.'
Thanking the audience a couple of times, another of my favorites 'Desperate but not Serious' (why it wasn't a bigger hit is still beyond me though) is played next and is backed by the oh-so truthful lyrical musings of 'Here Comes the Grump' (listen to it again and you'll understand), and then The Doors cover 'Hello, I Love You.'
As much as all the songs have been spot on perfect with regard the musicianship and Adam's albeit-older vocal approach, the crowd were still relatively dormant in their swooning and dancing until the major hit single from the album came forth: 'Goody Two Shoes.'
You see, the trouble with playing an entire album for a country that might have barely been aware of it even back in the day is that although the beats and rhythms are there, their collective sing-along leaves a lot to me desired.
Ergo, the remainder of the albums Side 2 - the funky 'Crackpot History and the Right to Lie,' the finger-snappin' 'Made of Money,' the Southern-fused 'Cajun Twisters,' and both the poppy 'Try This For Sighs' and the stern Western-edged theme for 'A Man Called Marco' - all seemed to bide time for the audience; in their mission to hear the known hits.
Having again thanked everyone for coming out, and still fully dressed in leather pants and a very tight Ant-esque button up jacket, Adam must lose 5lbs a night as he prowls the stage, back and forth, in search of new faces to theatrically glare into!
"Thank you," Adam finally says, as 'A Man Called Marco' still plays out behind him, "that was the Friend Or Foe album … and now for some other songs that I think you'll enjoy." And with that, and as 'Marco' finally comes to an end, without any hesitation or stage exit, he breaks into one of his earliest hits, 'Dog Eat Dog.'
From a very underrated early album (Dirk Wears White Sox), next up is the punk angst of 'Kick!' which is backed by the crowd-pleasing vibrancy of 'Vive le Rock.' "Thank you very much," Adam remarks, whilst also noticeably catching his breath. "Here's a little tune you may know. I'd like to dedicate to you good people here tonight and it goes like this …" and with that 'Ant Music' is brought forth.
Now showing physical signs of genuine exhaustion due to his stage antics (in and out of the forbidden zone, one assumes!), he hunches over the mic stand whilst the crowd showers him in applause and screams of adulation.
Now guitar slinging, Adam comes back to the mic. "Here's a song we used to play in many hot and sweaty places in the UK and over here in some parts of the US ... much like here tonight, in fact," he announces and then launches into a fabulously punk-fraught 'Zerox.'
Now talking more to the audience between songs to, quite literally, catch his breath, Adam introduces the next song: "This one is all about a light blue car and me driving down the coast with my mum and dad", which means my all-time favorite pre-Ants fame track 'Car Trouble' is brought forth.
Another brilliant and upbeat track is 'Ants Invasion,' which I personally love for the build in both the storytelling and the chord progressions, and then Adam is back to the mic: "At the end of this next song there's a piece you can sing if you want to", and then the sound of his dueling drummers beat out the well-known intro to 'Prince Charming.'
A song that has nearly everyone in the audience striking poses and mimicking his video moves, the ending comes complete with a near-acoustic audience sing-along to the chorus. A saucy rendition of 'Strip' is next and brings with it the first inclination of Adam finally removing his jacket to breathe (albeit he only unbuttons it!)
As we head into the final chapter of his super long set, we next get treated to the golden days raw punk classic 'Lady / Fall In' ("Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one …"), before he stops to introduce the band - bassist Joe Holweger, guitarist A P Leach, drummers Andy Woodard and Jola, and aforementioned lead guitarist Will Crewdson.
Next up in this quite thunderous set is the classic 'Kings of the Wild Frontier' ("It's hard to say what's my favorite song, but this one's right up there", he intro's), which finds him midway through either making love to the mic stand or is just so exhausted that having leant it out at an angle was now slung over it and stuck trying to bring it back up!
Either way, come the strained end to the song his hair is dripping, the beads of sweat glistening in the hot beam of the spot lights, and he is, without a shadow of a doubt, completely knackered!
Still clearly struggling for breath, Adam speaks to the audience one last time: "Seeing that it's so hot in here," he muses, "its time for a ballad … or maybe not!" he quickly adds, as he and the gang roll through a manic 'Beat My Guest,' and then bring the show to a close with his worldwide hit single, 'Stand and Deliver.'
As soon as the song ends Adam and the band leave the now darkened stage, which signals a semi-exodus of the crowd; all assuming that was that. But then, and some minutes later it has to be noted, the band come back out (Adam now sans jacket) to provide a simply powerhaus performance of three of his early Ants tracks: 'Press Darlings,' 'Red Scab' (rightly whilst bathed by a rich red stage light), and a downright brutally raw late-'70s showing of 'Physical (You're So).'
Now with his breath back, and seemingly a new lease of life, listening to these three songs instantly flashed me back to when they were spinning around on my record player as 7" singles and how I had first fallen in love with their frenetic urgency.
For me, and I can only assume what was left of the audience by this point, aside from a couple of songs from the main set, this mini set was the true highlight of the entire performance tonight.
In what was a seemingly extended version of 'Physical (You're So),' Will also got to finally let loose on his guitar, cranking the thing up to 11, ensuring that everybody saw the unleashed punk purest within him.
In fact it was just an incredible performance from them all and for my money the best live show since his return to the US about seven years ago, and with your eyes shut could easily have been a live recording from back in the day!
Bravo, Adam. Bravo.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk