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O.K. – I will come clean, I had more than a few reservations prior to tonight’s show. The years that have passed since Adam Ant was a household name, a Top Of The Pops regular and probably the No1 poster boy of his generation have at times been unkind, even cruel, seeing not only his glittering international fame slip from his grasp but far more seriously, a well publicised series of incidents and bouts of depression occurring as a result of his long term fight with bi-polar disorder. Numerous aborted come-backs later it felt as though we were unlikely to see him take the stage again. My own personal experience of Adam dates back to his intriguing appearance in Derek Jarman’s 1977 film ‘Jubilee’, various sessions on John Peel’s legendary late night flagship programme and most significantly a visit to Gorton’s less than glamorous Mayflower Club in January ’79 where he played a captivating set in front of a handful of punters who (literally) fought to keep warm in the sub-zero temperature. Although he was a few years away from adopting his many sexy stage personas you were never short of a ‘Dandy Highwayman’ or two in the surrounding streets, usually in the form of  the local Teddyboys who took great exception to our presence.

His first album “Dirk Wears White Sox” was a gem as were the singles that he released around that time filled with menace, dark sexual imagery, and sado-masochistic references that, in the true spirit of punk did more than just raise eyebrows but made him unpopular with the British music press and - as Adam would later tonight remind us - was enough to see him banned by W.H. Smith! When his early band was effectively stolen from him by Malcolm McClaren to form the bones of Bow Wow Wow with Annabella Lwin, Adam rebuilt his Ants with, amongst others, Marco Pirroni and dual drummers providing African Burundi beats to create the excellent follow up album “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” which saw him cross over musically and achieve mainstream attention.

Fast forward to June 2011 and enough interest and expectation has been created to pack out Manchester’s Academy 2.  No mean feat when you realize that just over a year ago you could have paid on the door at Manchester club Satan’s Hollow where the poster advertised him as part of a bill including The Glitter Band and Angie Bowie! (He didn’t turn up by the way).  The hall is packed with people of all ages, shapes and sizes and there is a genuine buzz about the place. An atmospheric but lengthy intro tape teases the crowd as they wait for the first glimpse of their hero – so much so that one dissenting Manc voice bellows out – “Fuck Off, Come On!”…and on he came to the strains of ‘Plastic Surgery’, the first of many tracks from the early stages of his career to be featured tonight much to my delight and the rest of the older end of the crowd, although I am sure that some of this material left a section of the younger fans for dead. I honestly thought that I would never see the day that I would be listening to the likes of ‘Zerox’,’ Catholic Day’, ‘Cartrouble’ and ‘Deutscher Girls’ in a live setting again but there stands Adam looking pretty damned good in pirate garb working the stage and the audience like he had never been away.  Sure there were a few vocal dips here and there but he still delivers his songs with a confident, stylish swagger and great credit has to be given to the band that he has assembled under the quirky title of ‘The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse’ complete with the trusty two drummer combination and backing vocalists to provide some added glamour to the proceedings.

It was, inevitably, the songs from the ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ era that really sparked the crowd into life and brought out a little bit of the “Ant Warrior” in everyone with ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Antmusic’ still standing up as the classic pop songs that they were back in the ‘80’s. Back then my interest waned as he released songs such as ‘Prince Charming’ but tonight even that gets a new lease of life as the band give more edge to the lighter works and apply additional layers to the darker early material. By the time the set draws to a close Adam has stripped to the waist whilst singing a rendition of A.N.T.S. to the tune of Y.M.C.A. and has succeeded in leaving many of his fans screaming with delight – no mean achievement for a 56 year old man with or without a pirate hat!

It’s to be hoped that Adam can hold it together and take it from here as the release of his forthcoming album combined with the success of this tour could see him playing increasingly larger venues to growing numbers of fans both old and new before very long. I don’t make a habit of leaving it quite so long before I follow up on a live performance but if this was anything to go by I reckon that if I were capable of surviving another 32 year wait Adam would still be putting on a show. “Stand and Deliver”   -   he certainly did!         

Review and photos by Shay Rowan