Adam Ant At The Wilbur Theatre, Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 Boston, MA Reviewed
In the summer of 1980 I was the coolest 14 year old you’d ever want to know. Heavily addicted to the music ‘left of the dial’. In an interesting wave of new wave I surfed through music none of the kids at my cliquey all girl school knew existed.
The quirky girl in the doc martens and ‘crazy’ hair, you either loved her or hated her and she could care less either way. Well that’s what she wanted you to believe.
Heavy rotation via cassette? Adam and The Ants. So much so that a can of red spray paint helped me create my first ever graffiti…”Ant Music Rulz”.. on the side of my Junior High School. Take that mo’fo. The swoony dark haired dandy yelped and yodeled like some whacked out twiddle bug. But those drums, tribal and strong. Wait.. two drummers? “Kings of The Wild Frontier” made new wave sexy as hell with the help of MTv, we saw Adam ant as a feisty bandit with bedroom eyes and hips that new how to move. Campy yes, but with a mug like you get away with it.
The album itself wasn’t that great but it was the first I’d heard. It forced me to go back in their catalog Oh there were some doozys, the sultry “Ants Invasion” the yelpy “Dog Eat Dog”, did the job but were no “Dirk Wears White Socks”, going forward they were far better than “Prince Charming” which made Adam too popular. The solo God awful ‘Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip”, closed the door on my Jolly Roger. We were done- I’d moved on and the pop crowd scooped him up as their own. Another case of “ I knew them when no one did… ala U2 and REM among others. It was a sad goodbye, people didn’t even know who we were when me and my friends dressed as the band for the school Halloween contest (are you guys Indians or pirates?)..We were Ants, we were proud. We lost to kids dressed as KISS. Lame. We’d always have the spray-paint “You might not like it now, but you will”
Flash forward 34 damn years. Adam has acted, sang and gone insane a few times. He got wide he got narrow he got facial hair and wears a hat that looks like the guy on the Cap’n Crunch cereal, which means he lost his hair. He’s toured a few times and Iman saw him in NY not that long ago, but I didn’t. Caught again with my elitist attitude of not wanting to see my idols age. But this time- well…
The Kings of the Wild Frontier Tour 2017. How could I resist? Braced for the worse and hoping a few vodka and tonics would soften his wrinkles, I snagged a girlfriend and decided to be 15 years old in Boston for a night. A Cold rainy, dismal night in Beantown.
The Wilbur Theater is staffed by the kindest most accommodating group I have ever encountered. Had to pause to give them props. Fantastic.
Adam And arrived to stage shortly before 9am and proceeded to rail through “Kings of The Wild Frontier” without a word to the audience below. At age 62 Ant looks fit as a fiddle. Taught and small he belted out the tunes clearly and precise. A slight hip swivel and cuban slide now and then gave us a glimpse to the sexpot he was in the 80s. That being said he still has the charm, without a word. I think I was most bothered by the fact that Ant didn’t acknowledge the audience with so much as a thank you until about a third way through the gig. I despise the ‘WHATS UP BOSSSSTOOON” scream offered by so many artists, but a simple hello would have been nice.
But here’s where things get strange. Suddenly and abruptly the strong voice and on pitch vocals hit the road. This was night 2 of his US Tour and energy should be stockpiled- yet it seemed to have petered out. Speaking lyrics rather than singing and humming out missed lines were glaring evidence of ‘out of sorts’. This in no way tarnished the experience but rather added an element of ‘wtf’. His die hard followers,his his ‘ant people’ will chime in here that he always does this or whatever but as a new viewer of a true teenage idol it stood out.
Musically Adam Ant has assembled some fabulous music makers. Dual drummers, too many guitars backed the boy perfectly. They weren’t ‘The Ants’, but they were a back up band who were wise enough not to interfere with the person they were there to support. Adam rarely acknowledged their presence either- so maybe we shouldnt take it personally.
As the night progressed the energy dwindled and the ever present vacant stare out into the audience (or was it just locking eyes with the sound man as focal point) became more obvious. Was he having fun? After a brief exclamation of ‘this is one of my favorites’ as intro to “Beat My Guest” there were a couple words thrown out now and then but no really moment where he engaged with the crowd. Who loved him, who sang along and pogo’d (yes.. pogo) to his tunes.
So the grading of this performance is on a literal curve Starting out a straight up B+ and sliding to a C. Adam is a nostalgia trip no new waver should miss. Im interested to see how this tour progresses, and Im hopeful his energy will kick in full power. We saw glimpses but not the full monty,
Grade B+, B, B-, C+, C