Prince Charmless: Adam Ant: Astoria Theatre, London

LAST YEAR Adam Ant became a Dexys Midnight Runners fan. He went to their shows, always gave them name-checks in the press and even sent Kevin Rowland a telegram or two.

His interest coincided with his own meteoric rise to the top. It didn’t matter that he was releasing the worst material of his career, “Prince Charming”, Adam Ant could no wrong. Hit after hit became a way of life, tours were sold out everywhere and for the time there was no need to worry.

This year there are mumblings of discontent. Although he stills breaks into the top ten as regular as clockwork, his records don’t go quite as high as they used to do. The glamour he once generated has started to fade, and if the implications of the ‘Friend Or Foe’ video are to be taken seriously, then Adam is already anticipating his own decline. “When you’re number one,” he sneers on a new song, “the only way is down”.

Therefore this show for his fan club showcasing a new band — four members of Q Tips and two from Fingerprintz (not exactly the best of credentials) — might even be considered a comeback.

Which is where Dexys come back into the picture.

Obviously inspired by the Old Vic shows, Adam has dressed his band just like the old Dexys with boxing boots, pony tails, anoraks and tracksuit trousers. Adam himself wears boxing boots and takes a lot of trouble to promote the gang unity so beloved by Rowland, indulging in hammy dance routines and opening the show with the band kneeling in front of the audience.

But Adam has slipped the wrong side of that thin line between pastiche and plagiarism, acknowledgement and rip-off and, to be honest, not only is it embarrassing but a little sad as well. Whatever you think of Adam you’d give him credit of attempting something new at least. This new look, so blatantly filched, shows him to be so totally devoid of a lot of ideas in the presentation area, that it’s pretty undignified.

Musically Adam has toughened up. Utilising his brass section wherever possible, there is now a discernible attempt, among the clatter and noise of the omnipresent twin drum sound, to write songs with melodies and tunes instead of mindless chants.

Adam himself remains a charismatic enough performer which gladly detracts from the music when it gets cluttered and aimless (which is far too often for comfort), but even when he sings such confident lines as “ridicule is nothing to be scared of” there’s a definite hint of desperation in his voice.

Most of the material was from the new Friend Or Foe album, his best yet, mixed up with a few golden oldies to keep the screaming girls happy. There were enough of them and if you take it on that level, without being condescending, then it was a pretty enough show; noisy and energetic with a few flash moves thrown in between to keep the customer happy.

But it’s hard not to escape the idea that Adam Ant is now trying to move into more serious theatre, away from the pantomime it undoubtedly is at present. Adam has seen groups like Dexys do it and now he’s after the same credibility. Unfortunately he’s falling well short of the mark. There are no new ideas, no kind of real challenge to the audience. He’s backed up in a corner and seems unable to fight out of it with his wits: falls back on other people’s ideas and emerges even worse for it.

He’s doomed in fact. Doomed to be the eternal Prince Charming for the rest of his life How sad.

© Paolo HewittMelody Maker, 9 October 1982

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