For much of the 1990s and certainly the ’00s, it looked very much like Adam Ant’s career had hit the skids. Manners & Physique, from 1990, and ’95s Wonderful albums were hardly disasters, but in comparison to the huge success that he'd enjoyed prior to that, they were largely ignored.
Ant was down and apparently out. There wouldn’t be another album until 2013. A brush with the law and a spell in psychiatric care after throwing a car alternator through the window of a London bar was the biggest media splash that he made in the first decade of the new millennium. There was a book and a TV documentary, but that was about it. People had moved on. Adam Ant was, as far as the general public was concerned, done.
Except that nobody told him. Because when 2010 hit, the man born Stuart Goddard decided that enough was enough. He pulled himself up by the shiny, giant pirate boots, plastered the old makeup back on, assembled a worthy band of talented miscreants and vagabonds, and went back out on tour, in the process reanimating the cavalier-clad cadaver of his career.
Ant was back, and while there was a healthy vibe of nostalgia about the tours that followed, there was nothing tragic about the revived artist. He hasn’t phoned in a show since he got back on his steed. The Dandy Highwayman is figuratively on fire, and he’s enjoying himself too.
“After you’ve been away for a while, that’s the defining thing when you come back to it,” Ant says. “I’ve got a really good band who play really well and solid, which makes it much more enjoyable. I think if you’ve got that, you’re lucky. After being away from it for so long, it’s good to come back and really get out there again. Hopefully [the absence] makes the heart grow stronger.”
For all intents and purposes, Ant was out of action for fifteen years, besides the occasional guest appearance. That’s a long time to hold on to an audience, especially in the modern era, when stars burn bright and then fizzle out before they’ve finished their first legal drink. But a decade and a half later, Ant found that his audience was waiting patiently for him.
“Even when the records were riding very high, I was being asked how long I thought it would last,” he says. “It was a bit of a stupid question to be asked that early on, but at the time, I couldn’t really answer it. You’ve just got to make another record, get out there and do it. It’s your profession. I think people think it’s like a game, and it isn’t. It’s a profession that you have to learn — a craft.”
From 1977 to 1982, Ant fronted the band Adam & the Ants and released three incredible albums: 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox, 1980’s Kings of the Wild Frontier, and 1981’s Prince Charming.
Dirk Wears White Sox paved the way, while the other two were smash hits, filled with popular singles. In 1982, Ant released his debut solo album, Friend or Foe, featuring the number-one single “Goody Two Shoes.” Marco Pirroni of the Ants, an Ant collaborator for many years, worked on the solo album, too, but people pined for the classic Ant band, and they continue to do so. Still, the artist has assembled a strong group to tour with.
“Every musician has got a personality, but the band I have at the moment with the two drummers [Andy Woodard and Jola] — they are extraordinary the way they play the cross rhythms together,” Ant says. “That comes with time. You have to take time to bring everybody in and to feel a part of it. I think they all have completely different styles. The way Will [Crewdson] and the new guy Adam [Leach] play guitar – their styles are quite distinctive. In the rehearsal process, you try to make it sound as much like the original as you can, but they bring a certain style to the sound.”
Tragedy hit Ant’s camp in January this year when, after a show in Boston, guitarist Tom Edwards died suddenly.
“It was an absolutely tragic situation which I don’t really want to go into too much, because you have to respect the family’s feelings,” he says. “I’m sure [finishing the tour is] what Tom would have wanted, and that’s what we did. But it’s a very hard subject to talk about. We did it as a tribute.”
Edwards was also Ant’s musical director, so it’s inevitable that, somewhere in the current setup, there’s a little bit of Tom. As a tribute, it’s magnificent, because Ant really is back to the top of his game. His last tour saw him performing the Kings of the Wild Frontier album in its entirety, but this time he’ll be back to a more traditional one, dubbed “Anthems,” though he’ll be throwing in some obscure b-sides too. What we know is that we’ll get the classics: “Stand and Deliver,” “Ant Music,” “Dog Eat Dog,” “Goody Two Shoes,” “Prince Charming,” and so on. He’s played them a thousand times, and he never gets sick of them.
“If I went to see Roxy Music, I’d want to hear ‘Virginia Plain’,” Ant says. “In fact, I’d probably want to hear some more of the b-sides, to be quite honest, but you want to hear the ones that brought you to the party in the first place. I'm not gonna bite the hand that feeds me. I really do enjoy singing the a-sides, because I’m always trying to get them right, get them sounding absolutely as close as I can to the original singles. If you come and see it live, it’s close to the original, but a lot heavier.”
On Tuesday, September 26, Ant will perform at Denver’s Paramount Theatre with L.A. glitter rockers the Glam Skanks. He says that he’s looking forward to playing here — but then, he looks forward to playing everywhere.
“Each state you play — you might get on the bus and it’s snowing, you go to sleep, wake up, and you’ll be in a desert somewhere,” he says. “Every state is a new country, almost — different food, different accents, and every town’s been pretty good to me. I think I’ve managed to tour the States with every album I’ve made. It’s good to be able to go there and play. I’ve been to Denver a number of times and had a really good time. Hopefully, I’ll have another one.”
Of that, there’s little doubt.
Adam Ant plays, with the Glam Skanks, 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 26, Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, 303-623-0106.
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