Has pop ever seen a more dashing, idiosyncratic or electrifying frontman than Adam Ant? It really shouldn’t have worked for a young fellow from Marylebone to dress as a pirate, slather his face in greasepaint and bellow “The devil take your stereo, and your record collection!”, any more than it made any sense for him and his fellow Ants to fuse scything New Wave guitars, banshee-like whoops and thunderous Burundi drums.
Yet it did work, magnificently. Pop had never seen anything like this, and at the time there was barely a British male under 30 who didn’t long to unleash his inner Dandy Highwayman and plaster a white stripe across the middle of his face. (I did precisely that, aged 11, at the 1981 Broomfield House School fête – I’m not sure the girls exactly flocked, but golly it felt good.)
Although the original Ants have long since returned to their various formicaria, Adam – born Stuart Goddard – has had something of a career renaissance in recent years. After difficult times a couple of years into the new millennium, when his then-untreated bipolar disorder rather laid him low, he now regularly goes on the road and even releases new material. Having earlier this year toured Britain, playing 1980’s breakthrough album Kings of the Wild Frontier in its entirety, the 62-year-old added one extra London date, at the Roundhouse, before heading off around America in 2017.
Any nagging fears that Ant’s foppish persona might now look a bit cringeworthy – or his artful shrieks prove ill-suited to an older larynx – swiftly evaporated the moment he strode on and launched into KotWF’s opening track, Dog Eat Dog. True, he no longer leaps about like he used to, but he remains trim and, miraculously, still looks just swell in his buccaneering get-up: quite a few in the audience had affectionately gone the whole nine sartorial yards for the occasion, but he was the only one who got away with it.
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