Adam Ant, Edinburgh Playhouse 6 May 2017

Adam Ant: “Anthems – The Singles Tour”, Edinburgh Playhouse, 6 May 2017

Okay, cards on the table, I’ve been an Adam Ant fan for something like thirty-six years now, but I’ve never seen him live before. I was a bit too young when he was in his pomp, and in recent years he’s acquired something of a reputation for unpredictability – both in his personal life and his stage performances, as evidenced by his largely underwhelming appearance at last year’s Rewind Scotland. We filed into the Edinburgh Playhouse tonight wondering which Adam would turn up, the consummate showman or the loose cannon.

Opening act Glam Skanks set the tone perfectly for the evening. The LA quartet’s brand of sexually-charged glam rock shares numerous influences with Adam – Bowie, T-Rex, Roxy Music – which belie the fact that the band members weren’t even born when Antmania ruled the world. Like Adam’s Antmusic, Glam Skanks have their own theme song G.L.A.M., and their set also includes a glorious ’60s Spectoresque girl group pastiche which, on arriving at the chorus, reveals itself to be called F**k Off. It’s like the Bangles and the Darkness had a baby.

Charged up by the support act’s hugely enjoyable set, the audience – an eclectic mix of goths, rockers, classic pop fans and Dandy Highwaymen – rose as one to its feet as a grinning Adam bounded on stage to the strains of Beat My Guest. The B-side of Stand and Deliver was a powerful choice for opening song, albeit slightly unexpected on what was billed as “The Singles Tour”. Still, the main thing was that we had clearly caught Adam on a good day. Talking to friends beforehand about the gig, I had been warned to expect “lots of back-to-back songs and not much chat,” and indeed we were five songs in before Adam even said “Good evening,” but he turned out to be quite talkative by his own standards, promising us an evening of A-sides and B-sides – “I find the B-sides… interesting,” he teased.

Related:  Rewind Scotland, Scone Palace, 20-22 Jul 2018

In fact the body of the show was mainly A-sides and plenty of them, covering Adam’s entire career from Young Parisians through Antmusic, Goody Two Shoes and Apollo 9 right up to 1995’s comeback hit Wonderful, even finding room for minor ’90s hits Gotta Be a Sin and Can’t Set Rules About Love. Clearly enjoying himself, Adam even treated us to a brief monologue about childhood memories of his motorist father swearing at bikers as a preface to Cartrouble.

Adam’s band brought a ferocious intensity to these old favourites, reinvigorating early material like Zerox and B-sides Greta X and B-Side Baby, even bringing the gig to a temporary halt halfway through as their playing threatened to overpower the PA! The rock arrangements may not have always worked out – it has to be said that Goody Two Shoes isn’t the same without its brass section and one couldn’t help feeling sorry for Adam’s two drummers both having to play like Phil Collins for Puss ‘n Boots – but Room at the Top became a funk-rock marvel and a rollicking Prince Charming had the crowd bellowing along with a hefty Scottish twang.

After a lengthy set the band trooped offstage leaving the crowd braying for more, but with all the hits played (except Ant Rap and Deutscher Girls) what was left for the encore? Stuck for something to do during the enforced mid-show lull while the PA cooled down, Adam had asked the crowd for requests; one optimistic audience member behind us demanded “LADY!!!” to general sniggering. Yet the sniggering turned to incredulous delight as Adam and band returned to the stage and did indeed launch into the Young Parisians B-side, complete with fantastically infantile lyrics “I saw a lady and she was naked / I saw a lady, she had no clothes on.” Sadly it didn’t segue into a version of Perry Como’s Catch a Falling Star but rather Antmusic B-side Fall-In, heralding an all B-sides encore which also included Red Scab and Physical (You’re So). These unfamiliar songs in the encore may have underwhelmed the more casual fan, and it’s perhaps surprising that Adam didn’t hold at least one hit over for the finale, but the cognoscenti went home well pleased. Forty years after forming the Ants, Adam is still one of the greatest showmen in rock.