By Nikki M. Mascali
Photo by Tom Roarty
NEW YORK – An ant infestation broke out at New York’s Irving Plaza this weekend: Big ants, old ants, young ants, scantily clad ants, and even men-dressed-as-woman ants. Some had white strips spanning across their faces, others had red and white slashes on their cheeks and others still were decked out in frilly shirts, embellished jackets and tall black boots. Others just came as the every day version of themselves.
All of them had one thing in common: To pay homage to the man who inspired them to venture into whatever wild frontier beckoned them – and to see Adam Ant make a two-night stop on his biggest North American tour in 18 years. And if you think that Ant is a one-hit wonder who is nothing more than “Goody Two Shoes,” any one of those rabid fans would gladly show you the shortest way to the plank.
Ant and his band, the Good, the Mad & the Lovely Posse – featuring bassist Joe Holweger, guitarist Tom Edwards and drummers Andy Woodard and Jola – kicked off the shows with the explosive one-two punch of new track “Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter” and 1980’s “Dog Eat Dog.”
From that moment on, Ant and company did not let up and delivered 28 more songs that spanned his 35-year career, from songs like “Car Trouble” and “Cleopatra” from 1979’s “Dirk Wears White Sox” to “Cool Zombie” and “Vince Taylor” from this year’s “Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter.”
The front half of the show included a few new songs (“Shrink,” “Hard Men Tough Blokes”) mixed with popular tracks like “Stand and Deliver” and “Room at the Top,” both of which had Ant stalking the stage and prepping the crowd for what was to come. And what was to come began with the aptly wild “Kings of the Wild Frontier.”
Following that beloved song – the 11th of the night, by the way – Ant finally addressed the crowd before introducing “the only love song I ever wrote” as the band broke into the searing stunner “Wonderful.” The song, the title track of Ant’s 1995 album, was an easy standout and a lovely intermezzo during the two highly entertaining and energetic shows.
From that point on, Ant was no holds barred and, after making a dig about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” went into the slinky and sexy S&M anthem “Whip in My Valise.” The equally sexy (and once controversial) “Strip,” which featured Ant taking off his embroidered pirate jacket much to the pleasure of the crowd, came a few songs later after a great version of the new album’s first single, “Cool Zombie.”
The final five songs of the set proper built up into a crescendo that began with the festive “Vive le Rock.” The upbeat “Ant Music” and poppy hit “Goody Two Shoes” followed, while the punky “Car Trouble” preceded the blow-the-roof-off climax of the bass-heavy “Prince Charming.”
After a brief departure, Ant and his Posse returned for a throttling encore made up of “Press Darlings,” “Lady,” “Fall In,” “Red Scab” and Ant’s perennial closer, a loud and raucous extended version of “Physical.” By that point, both the band and the crowd had given each other their all, and there was nothing left. Ant departed stage left to the sound of ear-shattering cheers that hopefully won’t keep him away for 18 more years.
Los Angeles-based Prima Donna, handpicked by Ant for this tour, fired up the crowd with a boisterous eight-song opening set that kicked off with the early-Rolling Stones-esque “Soul Stripper.” The quintet also played the rocking “Sociopath,” the throbbing, ’80s-glam-inspired “Bless This Mess” and the ska-like “Psycho.” The group was impressive, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that based on its infectious sound, musicianship and stage presence that the days of seeing Prima Donna as an opening act are surely numbered.