Adam Ant at Turner Hall
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The 2010s have seen a significant resurgence in the careers of first-generation post-punk/new wave acts (Public Image Ltd., Devo, The Cars, etc.), but perhaps none as unlikely as that of Adam Ant. His current tour—the “Blueblack Hussar Tour,” in honor of the forthcoming Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter album, due in early 2013—constitutes his first march across America in 17 years. His well-publicized battles with mental illness, coupled with the postponement in early 2012 of this very tour had kept fans guessing as to whether this show would ever actually happen, but the faithful packed Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday night and were rewarded with an oddly compelling performance by the ’80s pop star.
Ant came onstage to uproarious squeals of delight from his female fans, and sang the first verse of “Plastic Surgery” with his back to the audience. The man who then whirled around to face the spotlight was virtually unrecognizable from the ’80s icon (aside from the clothing). The wispy swashbuckler mustache and saucer eyeglasses were an effective mask for Ant’s initial onstage jitters, though he seemed a bit nervous and short of breath for the first few songs. The complete absence of androgyny was initially disorienting. Ant is more Austin Powers than David Bowie in terms of sex-symbol status these days, and his onstage cavorting is more grin-inducing than militant, but he got comfortable quickly in the routine of the performance, and his antics were roundly endearing.
The Good, The Mad And The Lovely Posse proved more than capable with the full Ant catalog. The setlist skewed heavily towards the Adam & The Ants era, although the band tended to glam everything up beyond any semblance of punk. Ant gets a pass on the two-drummer shtick since he virtually sparked the trend in 1980. Prior to 1983’s Strip, driving percussion dominated the Ant sound, and Sunday night’s set was irresistibly danceable throughout. The only real dud of the show was “Vive Le Rock,” which would’ve been best left collecting dust in bargain LP bins. Ant chose well from his canon otherwise—even lacking horns, “Goody Two Shoes” and “Desperate But Not Serious” from 1982’s Friend Or Foe proved to be highlights, along with timeless nuggets from the very early days like “Dog Eat Dog,” “Cleopatra,” and, of course, “Antmusic,” which got bodies bopping up and down like a trampoline.
To finish off the encore, Ant pulled out a of couple ponderous, dark classics: “Prince Charming” and “Physical (You’re So).” Any menace these tunes ever held has surrendered to camp, but Ant’s music was never meant to be taken too seriously, and the performance was no less powerful for its cheese factor. This is one bona fide legend whose waning fame has allowed him to transition from icon back to plain old rock-and-roll singer (complete with surprisingly resilient vocal cords), and the old uniform still fits.