LIVE REVIEW: Adam Ant @ Sage Gateshead (09.11.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Michael Sanderson

The backdrop at tonight’s Sage Gateshead gig was a logo comprising an Indian headdress and the legend proclaiming ‘Ant music for sex people’. The band came out first (one of the drummers was a cool blonde with a 60s bouffant) and then the man himself joined them to a huge roar from the crowd. Looking like a cross between Russell Brand and Captain Jack Sparrow, and complete with ‘highwayman’ boots and military jacket, he flashed us his familiar feral grin. The drums struck up a thunderous tribal rhythm that continued throughout the two hour set and they launched into the whole of the Friend or Foe album in order.

The hits followed, and Ant Music had the even the back rows of the crowd on their feet and singing along, followed  by an early song, Zerox Machine, which Adam said was recorded at The Roundhouse. He doesn’t have a big voice for a frontman, but the songs themselves are so instantly memorable and have lasted so well, that this didn’t matter. They nailed the opening shouts on Prince Charming, and quite a few of the audience joined in with the ‘hand crossing’ choreography.  

Because Adam and the Ants were so huge at the start of the 80s, it is easy to forget how innovative they were. Dubbed by the press as part of the new romantic movement, they repudiated this label and when you really listen to the hits (written with his guitarist Marco Pirroni) and analyse their composition – made up often of vocal yelps, howls and rap, accompanied by fuzzy fedback guitar laid over the pounding drums – you might wonder how this strange music was able to account for seven singles in the Top 40 at the same time at one point in 1981. Adam Ant’s personal charisma and unique style certainly contributed a large part to that success, although in fact these charms may have detracted from true appreciation being awarded to his undoubted musical talents. His apache warpaint was absent last night, but he still looked great. 

Attending gigs by bands that you loved decades ago is probably the closest thing to a time machine and Adam and his band definitely had me back in the 80s with my frilly shirt on, hoping he would soon jump through a window near me. As the set drew to a close, the Adam Ant lights were replaced with skull and crossbones and the deadly highwayman was in our presence once again. The audience looked as though they would turn out their pockets for him in an instant.

The final song of the set was a heavy and guitar laden take on Physical (You’re So), involving two sets of toms as well as the drums. A loud and spectacular end to an excellent night out.

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