Adam Ant at Mill City Nights, 9/1/13
Photo By Erik Hess
Adam Ant & the Good, the Mad & the Lovely Posse
With Prima Donna
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
September 1, 2013
Adam Ant, the pirate punk hussar of British pop music, made his grand return to Minneapolis on Sunday night, delighting a roomful of his dedicated fans with a nearly two-hour set filled with spirited hits from his celebrated past as well as plenty of new songs. And while the difference in quality between Adam Ant's classics and his more recent material is occasionally quite vast, he still injected his vibrant, outsized personality into each and every number, proving from the moment he took to the stage at Mill City Nights that he is still one of the most instantly recognizable icons in all of rock music.
The four members of Ant's backing band, affectionately called the Good, the Mad & the Lovely Posse (guitarist Tom Edwards, a bassist introduced simply as Joe, and dual drummers, Andy Woodward and Jola), took to the stage to the triumphant sounds of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," before that gave way to a rousing speech from The Charge of the Light Brigade as Ant took to the stage with a dramatic twirl and the show was officially on. The performance started with a simmering new song, "Marrying the Gunner's Daughter," before immediately switching to a much more beloved older number, "Dog Eat Dog," which is the lead-off track to Ant's acclaimed 1980 album, Kings of the Wild Frontier. The crowd got into it straight away, singing along with the song's familiar call-to-arms.
The old B-side, "Beat My Guest," and the Dirk Wears White Sox jam "Kick!" both took on a modern edge, with the band managing to inject their own musical spirit into these classic numbers. Ant picked up a guitar for the first time in the set on a sinister, pulsating run through "Ants Invasion," before shifting back to the politically charged new song, "Hardmentoughblokes." But Ant and his band really set the place off with a rousing version of "Stand and Deliver," with the crowd needing no prompting from Ant to sing along with him on the soaring, anthemic chorus.
Photos By Erik Hess
Ant didn't address the audience for the first time until after two more celebratory singalongs on "Room at the Top" and a jubilant take on "Kings of the Wild Frontier," which got the crowd dancing, lost in the timeless spirit of the song. "Thank you very much. Good evening," Ant exclaimed theatrically, before acknowledged that he wrote "Room at the Top" along with Minneapolis's own Andre Cymone. "This next one is a love song. The only one I've ever written," Ant went on to say. "My girl had just gave me the elbow, as we say. And I thought, once I'd picked my guts up, that I'd write this song for her." Ant took off his distinctive black-rimmed glasses for the only time in the show to deliver an impassioned, lovely take on "Wonderful."
"I'm going to sing another love song, since you like that one so much," Ant said after the cheers died down. "Actually, when I wrote this song many many years ago, they said, 'This isn't a love song. This is a sick song written by a sick bastard.' But since that song came out, books like 50 Shades of Grey have been written, making all of this acceptable. I haven't written a book like that myself, because why write a book about it when you can do it?" A sultry run through of "Whip in My Valise" gave the set a seductive spark, but the show began to sag a bit as a trio of new songs followed, "Vince Taylor," "Stay in the Game," and "Cool Zombie."
But a provocative version of "Strip" got things going again, with Ant flirtatiously taking off his miliary jacket and throwing it to the side of the stage as the alluring lyrics took hold of him. The Friend Or Foe classic "Desperate But Not Serious" fully ignited the later portion of the set, with Ant leading the way on guitar. He dedicated a boisterous take on "Cleopatra" to "the late, great Elizabeth Taylor," before delivering another lively song from his 1979 debut with the Ants, "Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)." The string of classics continued with a hard rocking version of "Zerox" that proved to be one of the most irresistibly catchy songs of the night.
Photos By Erik Hess
After an exultant take on "Vive Le Rock," Ant proclaimed, "It feels like I'm sitting on top of the world. Thanks for coming out tonight. It's good to be in Minneapolis!" And, after introducing the band, Ant went on to say, "Someone asked me once if I ever thought about music while I was away from it. And I told him that the only time I ever really thought about music was when I was eating a Chinese meal. They bring the chopsticks to your table, and you break them in half, and that's when I start thinking about this song." The instantly recognizable beat of "Antmusic" then kicked in triumphantly, and the entire club fully got into the groove, singing along in full voice to one of Ant's most indelible songs.
The strong end to the set continued with a vibrant trio of hits, "Goody Two Shoes," "Cartrouble," and "Prince Charming," with Ant dancing around the stage having a right knees-up as the lively songs took hold. "Prince Charming" had the crowd and the band doing hand gestures in time to the track's thunderous beat, with Ant leading the audience through a rousing singalong during an extended outro to the song which closed out the main set on an absolute high.
Photo By Erik Hess
Sadly, after a long encore break, the band lost a bit of that momentum with a sloppy run through of a series of B-sides, "Lady," "Fall In," and "Red Scab," which sounded murky and never fully coalesced. Ant was now down to wearing a ragged and torn Adam Ant tour T-shirt, with his own face suitably ripped away on the front, and he saved the encore with the one-two punch of T Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" and "Physical (You're So)," which closed out the night in a rousing fashion. With a quick doff of his signature Napoleonic bicorne hat (revealing a stars and stripes bandanna underneath), Adam Ant was off to a rousing ovation, having taken his fans on a energetic tour of the past 30-plus years of music from his side of the tracks.
Personal Bias: While I was certainly exposed to Adam Ant's big singles in the past, I always viewed his career from an angle of curiosity, not particularly as much of a fan. And that curiosity led me to want to attend his first Minneapolis show in two decades, after which I'm much more of a fan of his work and his indubitable style.
The Crowd: Certainly skewed older, with a lot of fans dressing up to celebrate the return of their fashionable punk pied piper.
Overheard in the Crowd: "What do you think people would do if he came out without his hat on?"
Random Notebook Dump: Ant's backing band looked straight out of the hair-metal era, and while they were serviceable to the spirit of the songs themselves, they were really rather pedestrian in their execution and arrangements, with the one real talent on stage being Adam Ant himself.
Marrying the Gunner's Daughter
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
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
Bang a Gong (Get It On) (T Rex)
Physical (You're So)
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