Adam Ant made his triumphant return to New York City on Wednesday night (2/22 )for the final date on his current North American tour. An anniversary celebration of the iconic album Kings of the Wild Frontier, Adam and his band played the album in its entirety along with a well-stocked setlist of other Ant classics. It must be noted that the songs from Kings of the Wild Frontier were first given mass exposure when MTV was in its infancy. The infectious grooves and trademark Adam Ant flair for fashion were ingrained into the psyche of the MTV generation. Ant’s charm and good looks never did anything but increase his affability and add to the popularity of his music. But the music. The iconic cover artwork. The album, Kings of the Wild Frontier, is one of the all-time classics. Hence, an anniversary tour celebrating the UK’s #1 selling album of 1981.
Originally scheduled for Jan. 27, the Webster Hall date had been postponed due to the untimely death of Tom Edwards, the band’s guitarist and musical director. The loss of Edwards was a shock that forced the band and crew to cancel shows in both Philadelphia and NYC, a mere two dates into the tour. Tom Edwards had been a relevant fixture on the UK music scene and had a working relationship with Adam Ant for many years. Since the “show must go on”, the band secured a replacement guitarist in Will Crewdson, a fixture of the London rock scene and regular collaborator with Adam Ant. Crewdson was an easy fit with the band and already familiar with the material, thus the tour resumed on schedule and the cancelled gigs were quickly rescheduled at the end of the tour. A well-polished machine, the Adam Ant band closed out their tour in high fashion to a sold out, hungry NYC crowd.
The evening’s festivities kicked off promptly at 8pm with Los Angeles based, all female rockers Glam Skanks. Like the improbable love child of Marc Bolan and Divine, the Skanks lived up to their moniker with pomp and flair, lipstick and sequins. Songs like “Tube Tops” and “Bad Bitch” established the band’s enthusiasm for fashion and establishment of new era grrl power. Flashy and trashy, the Glam Skanks delivered their edgy power pop songs in a tight, 30-minute set. An excellent choice for support, the gals from LA set the party tone for the evening and successfully whetted the appetites of the NYC audience.
The house lights finally went out shortly after 9pm and the Ant faithful, the self-proclaimed “Ant warriors”, let out a resounding roar. Finally. Having the originally scheduled show canceled, there were a countless number of ticket holders who were unable to attend the new date, while the rest of us were left to anxiously await the show weeks later. FINALLY. The musicians swiftly took their positions on the stage and with no time left to draw a breath, that familiar Burundi beat began its slow, driving build, with momentum ever increasing until the lights came on and Adam Ant was center stage in full dandy regalia. The sound and vision collided and the Kings of the Wild Frontier album sequence began with “Dog Eat Dog.” Adam commanded the stage with authority and belted out the lyrics with the audience singing along in unison, “You may not like the things we say, what’s the difference anyway?” The applause following the opening number was so overwhelming that it almost drowned out the synchronized drumsticks intro to the next song, “Antmusic.” The band took small pauses between songs, presenting the KOTWF album in its original U.K. sequence.
The title song, which is the first song of the album’s second side, was perhaps the catalyst of the evening. The floor of the venue, already vibrating from another show in the space below, began to shake with fervor from the audience’s tribal stomping. The song “Kings of the Wild Frontier” is undoubtedly the battle cry of the Ant Nation. The song that unites a fan base. “A new royal family, a wild nobility, WE ARE THE FAMILY!” The music was reaching new peaks and the lyrics continued to encourage the solidarity of its listeners, “Antpeople are the warriors… Yeah! Antmusic is the banner!” Fists pumping in unison with the battle cries of the song’s message had Webster Hall shaking like a teepee housing a heated Pow Wow.
Twelve perfect songs concluded the album performance and were duly given an enormous ovation. The audience seemed grateful just to have witnessed a live presentation of such a magnificent work of art, like a special visit from an old friend. Adam acknowledged the completion of KOTWF and thanked the NYC crowd. The audience was then treated to a set list of Ant classics, starting with the fever-paced “Beat My Guest.” There were several other standout moments of the show including performances of such songs as “Stand and Deliver”, “Goody Two Shoes” and “Prince Charming.” Adam took a moment a few songs before the end of the main set to introduce the band. Andy Woodard and an eclectic beauty that simply goes by the name of Jola were the two responsible for holding down the drumming duties. The pair has been a part of the Ant posse for many years and countless tours and provide the powerful rhythm that is easily attributed to Antmusic. Joe Holweger, also an Ant posse mainstay, executed his bass duties with the usual flair expected of an Ant warrior. Will Crewdson, lead guitarist, more than amply handled his responsibilities with added nuance and his own aggressive style.
The encore slot of the show featured a trio of songs which wonderfully capped a magical musical adventure. “Red Scab” was the first, an epic early Ants B-side, driven by the grinding guitar distortion of both Crewdson and Adam himself. The second encore was “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”, the T. Rex hit, and the only cover song in the entire set. The final song, as always, was the deeply sexual “Physical (You’re So). One of the highlights of the entire Ant repertoire, the song was featured on the U.S. version of the Kings of the Wild Frontier album. Musically, the song ebbs and flows, opening sonic windows through which Will Crewdson was able to crawl through with distorted abandon.
The NYC crowd was left used and abused and drenched with the sweat and love that almost 40 years worth of Antmusic provides. Adam Ant, at 62 years of age, provided a sexually charged performance that was so overly and physically demanding it would exhaust a man half his age. Proof in the pudding that the faithful that were in attendance were rewarded with a performance they’d not soon forget. The Kings of the Wild Frontier tour was not originally scheduled to end its run in New York City but it just happened that way. Fate decided that England’s greatest pop star should complete the celebration of his greatest album in the greatest city on Earth.