Some call it nostalgia, I call it science. Numerous articles, such Mark Joseph Stern’s brilliant “Neural Nostalgia”, break down how the music we loved during our formative years will forever take up space on the cerebral iPods between our ears. Whether you were listening to Dark Side of the Moon or a New Kids On the Block album as a teen, the emotional attachment to that music has been scientifically proven to remain a vital stimulant whenever the songs come back into your life. Tonight at the perfectly renovated Pearl Theater at The Palms in Las Vegas, Adam Ant returned to town to flood our pleasure circuits with his Ant Music. The undeniable strength of his classic albums and his candid honesty about his struggles with mental illness make each show he performs a triumph of the human spirit.
A production delay stalled the legion of appropriately attired Ant fans outside the doors of the venue but their patience was rewarded. Returning to the support slot they have held down for several Ant tours, Los Angeles’ Glam Skanks quickly set-up their gear and launched into a blistering set of glitter rock that wiped out any lingering frustrations about the delays. Without a proper soundcheck and fronted by a new lead singer, Glam Skanks had to step straight into battle. Guitarist Veronica Witkin wielded her Les Paul with the colorful sass of Mick Ronson as the band tore through a set that showcased just how tight of a live band they have become. The playful “Fuck Off”, which recreates The Ronette’s “Be My Baby” as an anthem for women’s empowerment, and “Bad Bitch” embody the Glam Skanks ethos. Sure, the T. Rex and Sweet influences sparkle like glitter over every song but the same has been said about Great Van Fleet (Led Zeppelin) and The Struts (Queen). If you’re spending time picking out the influences, you are missing out on an exciting new generation of rock stars who are carrying on the grand traditions in fine style.
Opening with “Beat My Guest”, the very first song Adam & the Ants played live in 1977, Ant displayed the physicality and attitude that made him one of music’s biggest stars in the 1980s. While the success of Sex Pistols will be Malcolm McLaren’s most famous publicity stunt, his creativity in providing Ant with a timeless look and sound might be McLaren’s finest artistic achievement even if he ended up stealing all of Adam’s Ants for his other project, Bow Wow Wow. Seamlessly blending tribal rhythms and punk rock guitar, the Ant discography offers far more depth than his pop star contemporaries possess as evidenced by the acoustic cabaret of “Young Parisians” and the dark sexuality of “Red Scab”. Confident in his ability to hold the room, Ant plowed through a twenty-plus song set before returning for an encore that included the obligatory “Goody Two Shoes”.
Drummers Andy Woodward and the mysterious Jola provided the classic Burundi Beat throughout the night while Will Crewson’s lead guitar sucked the glossy production of Ant’s later material dry and turned every song into a biting anthem. Looking dapper in his black leather coat, Ant’s energy and voice were captivating to behold over forty years since his first gig. Focusing heavily on his glam-punk roots for most of the night proved the right move. How easy it would be for him to join a package tour, don the white face make-up and run through his major hits but Ant refuses to go quietly knowing that such a move would diminish his artistic legacy. While there is no denying that the audience was there for “Prince Charming” and “Stand or Deliver”, it was the darker, early material that provided the biggest rush of excitement.
Last year, Ant dazzled audiences with the Kings Of the Wild Frontier tour that offered a chance to hear the entire iconic album in one night. For the more serious fans, that provided the more interesting setlist but the current Anthems tour plays to the larger fan base who were with him through a run of hit singles that few artists today would imagine possible. Last night’s incredible performance raises the question of what will be next for Ant. Playing with the best musicians of his career, a quick stop in the studio to cut new material would certainly be welcome but so would another tour, perhaps showcasing the Prince Charming and Friend or Foe albums. Regardless, Adam Ant has proven himself prophetic when he sang “ridicule is nothing to be scared of.” Despite a dismissive press that derided his massive success almost every step of the way, Ant’s legacy as a musician and provocateur grows brighter with each and every show.