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Adam Ant + Glam Skanks @ Middlesbrough Town Hall – Review

Adam Ant + Glam Skanks @ Middlesbrough Town Hall – Review

Word had spread and as we walked to the venue there were locals stood outside the pubs who knew exactly where we were heading. They weren’t going to the gig but could still sing the songs. Adam Ant’s career has seen some rises and falls but everyone over a certain age, and many below that age, can name (and probably sing) at least one of the 20+ hit singles he’s had either as a solo artist as with Adam and The Ants.

There’s a real buzz inside the theatre and a diverse mix of people. From teenagers to those well into their 50’s and beyond. There’s the obvious die-hard fans who’ve been around since 1979’s ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ and yes, we do spot some who still dress up and paint a white stripe across their face.

The focus of this lengthy tour is 1982 album Friend or Foe, his highest charting solo album.

Support on this tour comes from Los-Angeles based Glam Skanks. Glam they certainly are. Superb rock ‘n’ roll drawing on everything from Bowie, Suzi Quatro, Shania Twain, The Sweet, T-Rex, The Runaways. They look the part and strut the part, completely owning the stage as they power through a set of songs covering their 7 year career with a strong focus on recent release ‘Anything In Between’. Vocalist Vanessa McNiel has all the rock moves down to a tee as she arches her body, head tilted back or stands staring/singing at the crowd with one foot atop the monitors front of stage whilst the classic rock guitar riffs and poses from Veronica Witkin, leaping bassist Millie Chan and the pounding drums and wildly expressive face from Jessica Goodwin make Glam Skanks not only a superb hard-hitting rock band but visually great as well. ‘No Way To Live’, ‘Anything In Between’, ‘Push & Pull Me Like You Do’ from their new album fall firmly into hard rock territory. McNeil, who replaced original vocalist Ali Cat , has stamped her mark on these songs. Older songs that originally featured Cat are faster, more in your face punk rock ( 2015’s ‘Wild Soul’) or more obviously heavily influence by 70’s glam rock – ‘Bad Bitch’ from 2016 album ‘Glitter City’ being a perfect case. Whatever they settle on one thing’s for certain, Glam Skanks are on the up. Deservedly so and I doubt it’ll be long before they’re headlining venues such as this.

Adam Ant needs no introducing. From punk rock beginnings, through early 80’s mega stardom with massive album sales, then a period where he was hardly heard of with no new album releases after 1995’s ‘Wonderful’ until his comeback in 2012 with ‘Adam Ant Is The Blueback Hussar Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter’. Recent tours have focused on a single album or the greatest hits and this tour it’s the turn of 1982’s ‘Friend Or Foe’. From those distinctive drum beats on opening title track, through the ‘Ant Music’ influenced ‘Place In The Country’, the pure 80’s pop of ‘Here Comes The Grump’, a well-executed cover of The Doors ‘Hello I Love You’ and the instantly recognisable ‘Goody Two Shoes’ the album is played in it’s entirety, in order. Nowadays the songs have a louder, rockier edge to them courtesy of the twin guitars from Will Crewdson and AP Leach. The crowd lap it all up. There’s smiles aplenty from those at the front and a lot of movement as plenty here relive their youth. But an Adam Ant show would be so much less without those unrelenting, rolling, tribal rhythms courtesy of the two drummers Andy Woodard and Jola. Drums are everything to Ant’s music with the guitarists also taking up drums during key moments. This becomes clearly apparent once ‘Friend Or Foe’ is finished with and we’re treated to another 17 songs spanning Ant’s entire back catalogue. Of course the crowd pleasers are played. Opening with ‘Dog Eat Dog’ this part of the show sees him play all those huge sellers. ‘Ant Music’, ‘Vive Le Rock’, ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’, ‘Stand And Deliver’. It’s during these moments when the crowd really come alive (as do the phones as people create a modern day visual record of the musical highlights from their youth). Add in some superb songs from the days of punk rock – ‘Cartrouble’ (and it’s B side ‘Kick!’) and ‘Zerox’, ‘Lady’ – the B side to Adam & The Ants 1978 debut single ‘Young Parisians’, ‘Fall In’ – possibly one of the best single B sides around and a three song encore made up entirely of single B sides – ‘Press Darlings’, ‘Red Scab’ and ‘Physical (You’re So)’ this proved to be a show that cleverly catered for those who knew only the hits right through to the obsessives who knew everything Adam Ant has ever released.

For someone who turned 65 earlier this month Adam Ant shows no sign of giving up just yet. The moves are all there and he dances around the stage with the energy of someone half his age. He looks great as well. Performing a 29 song set is no easy task even for bands in their 20’s. This isn’t just a gig. It’s musical theatre. Never a dull moment from an artist whose up’s and downs in life have often mirrored those in his musical career but who now seems content to be where he is – back on top of his game.

The only improvement Ant could make to any future tours would be a new album. Top stuff.

Words + Pictures: Steve White

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