Two trips down to the Bristol O2 Academy last week, to see living legends / Punk has-beens ( delete as applicable ) The Damned and Sir Adam of Ant.
The Damned were celebrating their 35 years (!) at the Punk Rock coal-face by playing debut album Damned Damned Damned and that difficult 4th LP, The Black Album, in their entirety. Even though I've been a fan of the band for many years and have seen them play live about a dozen times, I don't actually own any of their albums. ( Except for a well-wonky cassette version of Machine Gun Etiquette. ) So I was probably the only person in the packed-out venue who didn't know all the words to all the songs. Not that it really mattered: I was down the front from the first bass notes of Neat Neat Neat, yelling my lungs out to that caveman chorus.
suit ) they sped through the 31-minute long album in only 29 bruising minutes. Twelve amphetamine-rush bursts of aggression from the ironic Fan Club to the howling Stooges cover I Feel Alright ( originally called 1970 ) via the most punishing version of New Rose I've seen them play. Not bad for guys in their 50s...
After the first set there was a short break when we could recover from the effects of oxygen starvation, intense heat and rugby-tackling Bristol boneheads, before the band came back to dive into the psychedelic, psychotic depths of The Black Album. Starting with one of my favourite Damned songs, Wait For The Blackout, then on through other crowd-pleasers like Lively Arts and The History Of The World ( Part 1 ), the band headed inexorably towards the 17- minute epic Curtain Call. It's like Punk never happened :-)
As ever, The Damned were enthusiastic and clearly having a whale of a time ( which is obviously better than a dolphin of a time... ), the Captain and Dave Vanian taking the piss out of each other and other bands ( the regulation digs at the Pistols / Clash etc. ) and drummer Pinch introducing one song as "A Fart In A Spacesuit" - of course! They encored with Love Song ( yay! ), Eloise ( not my fave Damned song but played perfectly ) and a blistering Anti-Pope. But no Smash It Up? Boo!
And here are a bunch of mid-life-crisis-sufferers prior to the gig. From the left: someone whose name I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten, Rob, Glenn and me, doing my best "will you hurry up and take the picture, I can't hold this smile any longer" pose.
Two nights later I headed back to Bristol in a downpour of almost Biblical proportions to finally see, after 30 years, my teenage idol, Adam "Stuart Goddard" Ant. Yeah, I probably had what we'd now call a man-crush ( or boy-crush... no, that sounds worse ) on Adam back in the day. But it's OK, I'm over it now, I'm not confused, not in denial ;-)
( Bloody Hell, the things that this blog drags out of me... )
Adam's obviously been out of the limelight for a long time and it was a worry for old Antfans like me that he would just be doing this to pay the rent, a Zerox ( if you will ) of his old self. After splitting from guitarist / songwriting partner, Marco Pirroni, the Live Aid fiasco and his well-publicised mental health problems, it had seemed that Adam had retired from the life of a dandy highwayman. Now he was back for a new Ants Invasion... but would it be Wonderful or Nine Plan Failed?
Standing in the O2's bar, surrounded by Punks, pirates and highwaymen of all ages and persuasions, I heard a mighty roar exploding from the crowd and had to force my way down to the front to see Adam and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse hit the stage to the accusatory sound of Plastic Surgery. No starting with the greatest hits here: straight into the pre-fame cult classics. For every pop hit like Stand And Deliver ( manic! ) or Prince Charming ( regal! ) there were at least two of Adam's pervy B-sides and album tracks like Beat My Guest or Whip In My Valise or Lady ( he admitted on stage that Lady should have been the A-side of his first single, not Young Parisians ) ...all together now: "I saw a Lady and she was naked..."
Oh yeah, that reminds me - the band. The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse comprise of two drummers ( of course! ), a couple of what look like Californian session musicians from the '90s on guitar and bass, and the two Lovely ladies above on backing vocals and sex-kitten Antics. Never have so many camera-phones been hoisted aloft ( ooh, er! ) by so many blokes at one rock gig before! The band did a fine job of representing the Ants' sound, er... without actually being the Ants. ( But I still miss "Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee..." etc. )
The star of the show, of course, remains Adam, regardless of who's up there with him. Whilst obviously not as energetic a performer as he was back in his heyday, he's still got the charisma, the moves and the voice. And he's also open and funny about the ups and downs of his career. In fact, still a great frontman and still a star. And... still a sex symbol. A surprising amount of 20-something women ( and probably men too ) were literally falling at his feet. One girl next to me stripped down to her bra while she was dancing and later fell over the security-barrier in front of the stage. She said she was reaching to recover her handbag, but I think she was grabbin' for Adam ;-)
Antmusic for sexpeople!
Soundtrack: Beat My Guest, Friend Or Foe, Goody Two Shoes, Dog Eat Dog, Antmusic etc. etc.