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Adam Ant - Usher Hall, Edinburgh 19.11.2019

Last night marked a pretty momentous event for me, for not only was I lucky enough to be in the presence of the living icon that is Adam Ant, who was performing one of his most beloved albums in its entirety, it also marked my first gig as a reviewer for 3 Songs & Out, so I was all aquiver and somewhat giddy over the prospect of it all.

The setting for the gig was Edinburgh's Usher Hall, which is a beautiful and grand old venue that's better known for classical concerts and operas than it is for rowdy Rock'n'Roll ones, so it was a little surreal to say the least. As I arrived into the vicinity of the hall, I noticed that The Ant Army had arrived in their masses, with some of them wearing Hussar jackets, highwayman masks, glitter and lip gloss, which made me feel somewhat underdressed in my standard monochrome gig-going gear, but what can I say? I never had any time for dress-up shenanigans!

The doors for the hall opened a bit earlier than expected (which was a blessing since it was freezing outside) and once I was comfortably seated, it wasn't long before The Glam Skanks took to the stage to warm the Hall with their collective rays of Californian sunshine. I'd seen them before so I knew what to expect, but since they'd been through a lineup change and had a new singer and drummer, were they still going to be as good? Well, the answer is of course a resounding 'yes'. They rattled through a few of their new songs as well as some of their older ones, with guitarist Veronica confidently duck-stepping from one side of the stage to the other and looking like she was really having fun while churning out awesome riffage from her axe, as lead singer Vanessa stalked about the stage like she owned it and filled the hall with her impressively powerful vocals. At the same time, Millie’s bass playing and Jessica's frankly awesome drumming provided big groovy slabs of warmth and technical ability to the band's Rock'n'Roll backbone, and they sounded simply magnificent. I ended up with a massive grin plastered across my face and was actually a little disappointed that they didn't play for a little longer.

The main event of the night, however, was reserved for Adam Ant, and before he and his band took to the stage there was an electric sense of anticipation in the Hall. This was actually my third time seeing Adam Ant live, with the previous one being easily one of my favourite gigs of 2017, so this one had a lot to live up to. A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd as the lights in the venue dimmed, and something that sounded a bit like the theme from a 60’s TV show started playing through the PA. Shortly after that, there was a flutter of movement in the murky darkness of the stage and the band could be seen taking their places and picking up their instruments, causing whoops and applause to erupt from the crowd. Moments later, with almost blinding luminosity, the stage lit up and the band charged right into the opening of the ‘Friend Or Foe’ album with the first track 'Friend Or Foe'.

If you know anything about Adam Ant, you’ll know that he’s always had a penchant for having an excessive amount of drumming and percussion in his music - so it should probably come as no surprise that his live shows feature an impressively kitted-out rhythm section which consists of not one but two drummers (Andy Woodard and Jola, resplendent in a mask and masses of blonde hair), sitting behind their kits on a platform at the back of the stage. They attack their kits with tribal ferocity and provide a unique sound to this most original of artists, and give a vital pulse to his music. It's really rather special to witness.

The rest of Adam's band is just as impressive as his drummers, featuring AP Leach and Joe Holweger on lead guitar and bass on the left side of the stage, and Will Crewdson on rhythm guitar to the right. Adam himself was in the centre of it all and was on top form; smiling, spinning and dancing around the stage and evidently having a whale of a time as he soaked up the hall’s electric atmosphere. As you might expect, he's an incredibly charismatic frontman who, even with scant audience interaction between songs, manages to elicit cheers and squeals of excitement from the crowd as he gets closer to them, even posing for the occasional photo for those lucky enough to be in the front row. His vocals sounded fantastic; nicely front and centre in the mix with his trademark chants and whoops sounding vibrant and clear.

After the opening song from the album, he and the band moved straight onto ‘Something Girls’, which is a bouncy little song that they coasted though without even breaking into a sweat and, further onto the album, they kicked out a particularly awesome rendition of ‘Goody Two Shoes’, which caused members of the audience to leap to their feet and dance in the aisles to better appreciate its infectious beat. Guitarists Leach and Crewdson joined Jola and Woodard on floor-standing tom drums for the last section of the song, which sounded absolutely epic. From there, Adam worked through the remaining tracks on the album, ending on the mostly instrumental ‘Man Called Marco’, during which he cooly stated “and that was friend or foe” before bringing the album to its whistling closure.

As is usually the case with gigs like these in which a band or artist plays through a classic album of theirs, there was the anticipation that they would then go on to play some of their well known and beloved classics, and in this respect they absolutely did not disappoint. Right after the play-through of 'Friend Or Foe' ended, they launched straight into ‘Dog Eat Dog’. The Usher Hall went stratospheric to the tracks frenzy of drumming, and after that we were treated to a grab-bag of sing-along anthems including ‘Ants Invasion’, ‘Prince Charming’ ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’, and a rollicking rendition of ‘Stand And Deliver’, which was impossible to resist howling along to despite there being a bit of an issue with the PA towards its end. After a short encore, Adam and the band returned to the stage to play three more songs, closing with the superb ‘Physical’, which I’ve developed a horrible habit of singing along to as if it’s the Nine Inch Nails cover version from 'Broken'. It wrapped up the gig perfectly and left the masses and I grinning from ear to ear, overjoyed at seeing one of the truly original and iconic artists from the 80’s, still very much at the top of his game.

Well, what else can I say? What a stonker of a gig! What a band! I left the venue absolutely buzzing and couldn’t relax for ages afterwards. Adam puts on one of the best live shows around, which is packed with energy, amazing visuals and, naturally, his iconic music. Indeed, if you’re lucky enough to be at one of the remaining dates on this tour, I can say with some certainty that you’re going to be in for one heck of a fantastic evening.

Review - Craig Henderson

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