Adam Ant and The Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

4.00

 

"Ridicule is nothing to be scared of,"
bellows a stranger sporting a pirate costume into my ear, his arm wrapped
around my shoulder.

In fact, the whole room's bellowing the lyric and crossing and uncrossing their arms across their chests as Adam Ant stands and delivers a sensational version of his number one smash (songs were smashes back in 1981) "Prince Charming".

Adam Ant (born Stuart Leslie Goddard) has emerged from a lengthy period out of the limelight (this is the end of his first tour in 17 years), in which he has battled mental health issues (in 2010 he was briefly sectioned) and once threatened to shoot pub-goers in Kentish Town for mocking his appearance.

Well, the 58-year-old dandy highwayman, voted in 1984 the sexiest man in America by MTV viewers, looks resplendent tonight, in his Jack Sparrow-style pirate garb, Hussar waistcoat and spectacles, and his charisma fills every square millimetre of the space.

The New Wave star's performance is defiantly not ironic, postmodern or meta; there are no knowing winks and nudges to the audience here. It just is. For all intents and purposes this could be 1982. He barely acknowledges the modern world at all and his vigorous set - which benefits hugely from two drummers - is riddled with some of his tangier, saucier punk numbers from the late 1970s, including "Car Trouble" ("You might have seen them very busy at the weekends/ licking and polishing the beep beeps") and "Zerox".

Ant rattles through his munificent two-hour, 30-song set, occasionally mumbling unintelligibly between songs, and while his singing voice has never been a thing of immense beauty, his attitude and stage presence most indefatigably are.

He still exudes a punk menace and is in robust voice for standout tracks "Dog Eat Dog" ("It's easy to lay down and hide/ Where's the warrior without his pride?"), the smutty "The Whip in My Valise", "Kings of the Wild Frontier", "Deutscher Girls" and the addictive stomp "Antmusic".

The new tracks, "Cool Zombie" and "Vince Taylor", from his latest album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunnar's Daughter, don't feel out of place either.

For the six-song encore he strips off his top and tucks into T-Rex's "Get It On" with relish, followed by "Physical (You're So)" and, best of all, "Prince Charming", where men of a certain age (mine) are transported back to their childhood bedrooms, yelling "Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome"...

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