Live Review: ADAM ANT

5 April 2012 | 6:58 pm | Andrew Mast

One part: WTF! Nine parts: pure punk.

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It's thirty years since Adam Ant toured Australia with his Ants, at the time riding a wave of commercial success that saw the former UK punk pursue a proudly pop path. This time around, accompanied with The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse, Ant is pursuing his punk and rocker roots. Those expecting to hear a jukebox of '80s hits are in for a seismic shock. The hits (Antmusic, Stand And Deliver, Prince Charming) are just a small fraction of this two-hour marathon of thirty odd selections. 

Most of the set leans heavily toward pre-fame Ant tunes, as he plunders (and is dressed appropriately pirate for a-plundering) his 1979 Dirk Wears White Sox album, as well as songs recorded prior to Dirk, and over half-a-dozen b-sides. Ant sets the tone opening with '77 punk cut Plastic Surgery, a laser-sharp rock commentary that allows Ant to physically proclaim that he's still relevant - and still got the moves (for the most part).

His band includes two drummers replicating the glam attack that gave Ant his signature sound, and they announce themselves as Ant swings into what was his first pop hit, 1980's Dog Eat Dog. Unfortunately things veer off in a train wreck direction as Ant thwacks himself in the face with the mic, and seems to not only forget the song's lyrics but also its melody and where he should come in.

But with the first hit out of the way, Ant settles back into, what is obviously fuelling his return to the stage, a clutch of fetish-tainted punkish rarities: Beat My Guest, Kick and Cartrouble. Ant's on fire as he struts through the sex-charged songs. Maybe Dog was less disaster, more an annoyance in the way of the real Ant hits. As the night presses on, Ant continues to drop the 'hits' amongst brackets of lesser known Ant back catalogue.  Deutscher Girls and Catholic Day cushion Puss 'N Boots; Cleopatra, Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face) and Zerox precede Antmusic; and the set ends not with a mighty chart-topper of old but rather with a triptych of raucous b-sides Christian D'or, Lady and Fall-In. Even the encore's obligatory Prince Charming was buffered with the very rare Fat Fun and yet another b-side Red Scab.

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Most blatant though was Ant's wish to bring forth his rockabilly influences. Not only is his one new song of the night an ode to UK rocker Vince Taylor, but the once truly cheesy mega-hit Goody Two Shoes is retweaked to emphasise its rock'n'roll roots rather than the over-produced excesses of the original recording. Ant also pays homage to his glam influences with two T-Rex songs in his second encore - having earlier performed his US power ballad hit Wonderful to bring out its Bowiesque qualities (and Bowie too, cites the 'unpredictable' Taylor as an influence). Indeed, Wonderful now sounds wonderful.

Like his idol Vince Taylor, Ant's performance is erratic and eccentric. He emanates an odd detachment throughout the performance. He barely addresses his audience between songs (although he dedicates Antmusic to Molly Meldrum), yet attempts high kicks best left for the younger band members and then rips open his t-shirt for dramatic effect in Kings Of The Wild Frontier (it demonstrates the line "you're just a shade too white"). Oh, and let's not forget he is wearing a pirate hat and his backing singer (Georgina "Russell Brand's ex" Baillie) is in her Friday night-best lingerie. But, like the neighbour you know dines with his Barbie collection, best we speak no further of these idiosyncrasies.

The night ends with (You're So) Physical, another b-side but one that was elevated to cult status when covered by Nine Inch Nails. And, so Ant exits as he entered - surprisingly relevant and not quite ready for the heritage-touring circuit many of his '80s peers seem to have chosen. Until, that is, someone puts together a retro bondage tour.