CONCERT REVIEW – Adam Ant in Las Vegas
The show must go on. After losing guitarist and band leader Tom Edwards a few weeks ago, Adam Ant and the rest of his band circled the wagons and found a way to push on with the magnificent Kings of the Wild Frontier tour. Having stared down his own demons for decades, Adam’s welcome comeback speaks to his courage and strength and tonight’s show was a lot more than a stroll down memory lane. Adam and his band stormed the stage with “Dog Eat Dog” and barely stopped to catch their breath over a twenty-six song set that focused on the most pivotal years of his storied career.
A bona fide English cult hero after 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox, a deliciously dark album full of post-punk angles, the infamous Malcolm McLaren took Ant under his tutelage and transformed Adam and his Ants into dandy Indian warriors marching into battle upon thundering tribal drums that became known as the “Burundi Beat.” Before they could bottle this lightning in the studio, the ever scheming McLaren pulled off another great swindle. The Ants ran off with Malcolm to form Bow Wow Wow, leaving Adam more determined than ever to achieve stardom. With former Siouxsie & the Banshees guitarist Marco Pirroni onboard, the duo rounded up some new Ants and set to work on Kings of the Wild Frontier. The resulting album became one of the most unlikely #1 albums in UK history and draped drab, grey England in vibrant colors as dawn broke on a new era of pop music in the 1980s.
If Ant was looking to cash in on his own history, the U.S. leg of this tour would have been focused on Friend Or Foe, the 1982 album which cemented his pop star standing in the States with hits like “Goody Two Shoes” and “Desperate But Not Serious” (both given muscular run throughs on this evening). However, Ant was never cut out for pure pop and his art-punk blend of flash and subversion never sounded better than on Kings of the Wild Frontier. With his two drummers pushing the guitars, “Ant Music” hasn’t lost any of its flavour but it was the lesser-known album tracks that made this show a special night for long-time fans.
From the disco-funk of “Don’t Be Square (Be There)” to the gloomy post-punk of “Killer in the Home,” Ant masterfully wove together the various strands of influence that pushed him away from the ashes of punk music all those years ago. Refreshingly, the band didn’t rely on any modern day techniques; eschewing backing tracks and Teleprompters to play one of the rawest live shows I’ve seen from an artist of this stature. This morning, I listened to a live version of the ferocious “Beat My Guest” from 1981 that didn’t have the teeth of last night’s performance. The band tore into the older material with gusto and a noticeably trimmer Ant was up to the challenge with an updated take on his 80’s image.
Support act Glam Skanks were personally chosen by Ant for this tour and their Runaways-meets-T. Rex sound was a perfect start to the evening. Singer Ali Cat won the usually passive Las Vegas crowd over with her carefree attitude and the band lived up to the hype of their debut album Glitter City. I couldn’t help but think Malcolm McLaren would have loved these ladies (or maybe they’re more in the Kim Fowley mold). The night came full circle during Adam’s encore when he turned the venue into a glam rock dance party with T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” and the night ended on the same high as it started.
Few “legacy” artists can take their landmark album out on the road and breathe new life into it, but that is exactly what Adam Ant did on this evening. Not only did it re-affirm the brilliance of one of the best records to ever come out of the U.K., it was a feather in the cap for a gifted performer who never received the critical acclaim he so obviously deserves. All these years later, Adam Ant continues to stand and deliver in a way that makes him an artist to be treasured and this tour will hopefully mark the start of his renaissance.