Review: Adam Ant proves as audacious as ever at Hard Rock Cafe, Tampa

click to enlarge The indomitable Adam Ant - Tracy May
Tracy May
The indomitable Adam Ant

It's not uncommon for me to poll other nearby concert-goers after witnessing a really good rock show to get their reactions. I'm always curious to know if a performance that's just floored me has had the same impact on those around me. "What'd ya think??" is a common question I pose to those I run into after the last encore is complete. After doing just that after last Thursday night's Adam Ant concert, I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many of my brethren who'd attended Ant's long overdue return to a nearby stage felt the way I did. They were elated, astounded and downright giddy. As Ant proclaimed boldly about halfway through his performance, "I came here to rock!" And rock he did. [Text by Gabe, photo by Tracy.]

A small but passionate collection of attendees crammed themselves into every available inch of the Hard Rock Cafe and cheered Ant on from the minute he walked on the stage. Sure, a small nightclub is a far cry from the mega-arenas Ant could pack back in his heyday, but the scale of the venue didn't diminish his performance or his massive presence at all. Most of the 40-and-above aged folks in the crowd were geared up for a reminder of a more carefree and less stressful time in their lives: their teenage years which, more than likely, were fueled by the fun, catchy and sometimes hedonistic Adam Ant catalog. Adam, with or without previous backup band The Ants, was as maligned during his soaring rise to fame as he was admired. Girls loved him. New Wave girls loved him. Rocker chicks loved him. Lots of guys liked him (although they admitted that sparingly). Ant was a handsome, sexy, costume-wearing, dancer/singer/performer who captivated audiences across the world thanks to his constant MTV exposure. He was like the Tom Jones of the pubescent 1980's New Wave set. But ... what would he be like in 2012?

"Audacious" is a word that was thrown my way from a good friend after Ant's nearly two-hour set Thursday night. His audacity was refreshing when he burst on the scene and opted to don pirate outfits, new romantic gear and tribal makeup, but to rekindle that outlandish look and make it work 30 years after the fact is indeed audacious. While not trying to foolishly emulate the exact look he popularized way back when, Ant has instead decided to re-invent his style. His dandy highwayman style now encompasses chunky horn-rimmed glasses, a small goatee and densely tattooed arms. The look has gone through some changes and Ant has inevitably aged a bit, but he's retained his handsomeness and his charm. And in his wisest and most thoughtful judgement, he's decided to make the current tour he's embarked on, the "Blueback Hussar" tour (named after Ant's forthcoming comeback album), less of a nostalgia trip for 1980's revivalists and more of a feather in the cap for diehard lovers of "Antmusic."

Opening his set with an obscurity like 1978's "Plastic Surgery" instantly raised the wow-factor through the roof. This was certainly not going to be a paint-by-numbers, pandering setlist. Backed by his re-vamped backing band, the Mad and Lovely Posse, Ant boldly plowed his way through plenty of obscure material while certainly not ignoring his many chart singles. Deep album cuts and b-sides like "Ants Invasion" and "Whip in My Valise" were as eagerly received as more familiar hits like"Stand and Deliver" and "Desperate But Not Serious."

Flanked by much younger bandmates, Ant commanded the stage and, like always, was the focal point of the night. His new Posse features a guitarist, bassist, two drummers and a very provocative female backup singer. The young band helped to bring a heavy rock element to standouts like "Deutscher Girls" and "Strip." And while Ant isn't the leaping, air-kicking physical acrobat he used to be, he still knows how to hold an audience in the palm of his hand. Posing, mugging, winking and thrusting like always, Adam proved his allure and his sex appeal are still obviously present.

Mired in a long absence from the music scene due to personal and professional problems, Ant seems poised for a serious comeback. A glimpse into his new direction was given with "Vince Taylor," the lone selection from his upcoming new album, his first since 1995's Wonderful. In a return to the early raw, punk rock strains of the Ants, the new song was a welcomed surprise and went over well with the rowdy crowd.

Choosing to cap his nearly-two hour set with even deeper obscurities was refreshing too. Ant could have easily ended the night with "Goody Two Shoes," the quasi-rockabilly smash hit that made him a household name in 1982. But instead, he chose to unleash that one towards the end of the main set and packed the five-song encore with something for everyone, from the most devout Ant fan (who might recognize the intense obscurity of "Fat Fun") to the MTV-era generation (with the playful silliness of the anthemic "Prince Charming").

And as the clock struck midnight, reality set in and most of us realized the alarm clock was going to be a dreadful sound the next morning as we'd have to prepare for another day in the real world of the ordinary. But, for a single devastatingly fun night of great music and virtual escapism, we all got to pack into a tiny nightclub and hear Adam Ant belt out the stuff that helped define us as individuals and cast an indelible imprint on our generation. An audacious night, indeed.

Set List:
Plastic Surgery
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
Car Trouble
Ants Invasion
Deutscher Girls
Stand and Deliver
Room at the Top
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Whip in my Valise
Vince Taylor
Desperate not Serious
Never Trust a Man (with Egg on His Face)
Goody Two Shoes
Vive le Rock
Christian D’or
Lady/Fall In

Fat Fun
Red Scab
Prince Charming
Get It On (T.rex cover)


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Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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