It took 40 minutes and 10 songs into his set for Adam Ant to address the crowd at Center Stage on Tuesday night.
But between his thick English accent and the self-involved fans who found it necessary to scream over him, it was impossible to decipher Ant’s message.
Not that it mattered too much – he chatted more frequently with the crowd and thanked them several other times throughout his two-hour set – because this was a concert firmly centered on music.
There was no time for banter or stalling to catch a breath or costume changes (not that Ant needed one) as songs segued smoothly and he and his four-piece The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse bulldozed through a comprehensive set list that paid heavy attention to his new album – which isn’t always a good thing, but in this case, it was a brilliant move.
Earlier this year, Ant released the verbosely titled “Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter,” and is now a few weeks into his largest tour in 18 years that will continue deep into September.
While the generous set list hopscotched from 1980’s “Ants Invasion” to 1990’s “Room at the Top” to 1979’s “Zerox,” the healthy offering of new material only augmented the concert.
“Hard Men Tough Blokes” is a fervent rocker that doesn’t sound a step removed from his earliest days as a scrawny New Wave punk with finger paint smeared across his cheeks. Ant also assembled a string of newbies played in succession – “Vince Taylor” (another tight rocker) “Stay in the Game” (affected vocals and a bit shapeless) and “Cool Zombie,” the best of the trifecta that borders on country rock and pays homage to his time spent living in Tennessee.
But of course he knows that 30-plus years into a career, fans are coming to see the guy in the feather-adorned pirate hat, brocade vest and knee-high black boots stomp around to the tribal pounding of “Stand and Deliver.”
To be sure, between his garish costume and constant movement around the stage, Ant was a captivating presence. He mock-staggered during the serrated guitar opening of “Shrink” (also new), unleashed a mighty roar as he twirled around with the mic stand in “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and looked like a matador trapped in a Johnny Depp movie as he zig-zag-danced through “Room at the Top.”
While it took a few songs for the mix to clear and Ant’s vocals to become discernible over his overzealous bassist and twin drummers, he eventually sounded good, if not spectacular, on “Wonderful,” his most beautifully melodic song.
On his most familiar hits – the underrated “Strip” with its insinuating bass line and Middle Eastern-flavored guitar line; the staccato “Desperate But Not Serious”; and the drum-laden blast of nostalgia that powers “Goody Two Shoes” – Ant sang a bit haphazardly, which provided the audience room to sing along.
In no way did he appear resentful of those hits, as many artists do with their “must-play” songs. But it was obvious that Ant displayed a little more zip on his new tunes, proving that at 58, he’s still on a mission.
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