In those halcyon days of third year at university, my mate Mike and I had rooms in a house belonging to a divorced lady and her two children. The boy must have been about ten years old and one of my overriding memories of that year was his continously playing his, apparently only, two records. Loudly. Repetitively. Ad Nauseam in excelsis. One was Bucks Fizz “Making Your Mind Up” and how this didn’t put me off Eurovision for life is beyond me. The other was Adam Ant’s “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and that did indeed put me off Mr Ant and his silly bunch of supporting insects for a long time. “Prince Charming” and “Stand and Deliver” came and went and I found them tediously entertaining in a purely background sort of way. Then along came “Goody Two Shoes” and I loved it; I rediscovered and relished “Antmusic”, I was amused by the re-released “Young Parisians” and finally bopped till I dropped to “Apollo 9”. So there were the six songs I hoped Mr Ant would perform on this leg of what seems to me to be a pretty intensive summer tour.
Before the gig though, came the angst of worrying about being the middle-aged theatregoers slap bang in the middle of hundreds of scruffy unwashed yoof ravers. We’ve not been to the Roadmender before and thought it was high time we experienced for ourselves the insides of this rather ominous looking building. Promoted as the largest music venue between London and Birmingham, we wondered what would it be like. Would we be gawped at as the Oldies on the young peoples’ patch? Patronised by the door staff? Ignored at the bar? Sometimes when one has to attend a new venue one’s capacity for worrying in advance can be surprisingly fertile. But we needn’t have worried. The Roadmender is a friendly, clean, well run venue, with good air-conditioning, a reasonably priced bar (pint of lager and glass of wine £6.80), a decent little cloakroom, and clean toilets (according to Mrs Chrisparkle). My only slight reservation about the place is that the email I sent them through their website, four days before the gig, asking a couple of questions about the venue, remains unanswered.
We arrived as Mr Ant’s warm-up act was nearing the end of his set – the disarmingly named Mr Johnny Normal. I was sorry we missed the earlier part as he sounded pretty good. Mrs C and I were both impressed at the look of the stage and the general sound quality from the performance. Mr Normal hoped people would buy his CDs later on – I expect he did rather well.
Then there was a half hour break before the arrival of, to give them their full name, Adam Ant and the Good, the Bad and the Lovely Posse. Not sure who was the Bad; the guitarists were certainly good and the female drummer and the sexy dancer in the nurse’s outfit were quite lovely. Then nice and prompt at 8.30pm precisely on strode Mr Ant, thirty years on from how I remember him; still wearing his trademark black and gold jacket, dandy highwayman hat and – a new development – preppy glasses, which lightly added to the suggestion of his growing old disgracefully, an ambition to which I thoroughly subscribe.
In case you were in any doubt, I can safely say he’s still in excellent voice and is still very much the showman. He doesn’t have a lot to say to the audience – I think it was about five songs in before we got a “Good evening” and another three or four before a “Thank you”. But this didn’t come over as being rude – just that he was intent on performing and wanted to concentrate all his efforts on that. We were amused that, after he’d done about ten songs (I was struck how short most of his songs are) the biggest cheer of the night so far came when he did a provocative silent stare to the audience, totally unconnected with anything musical. I also realised that he has done a lot – and I mean a lot of tracks that I have never heard; and I was beginning to get desperate to hear my favourite six songs that he would probably play at the end, wouldn’t he. Surely.
About a third of the way through he struck up Antmusic, and it was great – and very popular in the hall. About two thirds of the way through he sang Stand and Deliver, which also worked well. Near the end they did Goody Two Shoes which got by far the most rousing reception of the evening; and at the end, before the “false ending”, we got Prince Charming, which for me was a bit over-amplified and came across rather muddy and distorted. And there was sadly no Diana Dors. His encore was made up of songs I’ve never heard, and crowd-pleasing cover versions. No room for Young Parisians or Apollo 9 then. Tsk. Sigh.
He did however give excellent value for money – almost a full two hours of performance, no shirking, great quality, and supported by a fine backing group. If you’re an Antfan, this tour will be heaven for you.