Monday, 20 June 2011
Adam Ant's Phoenix plateau, but Krakatoa rising
Adam Ant Seaside Tour - Exeter Phoenix, 17th June, 2011
Going to this gig reminded me of just how necessary live music is. Whilst variable for this attendee/listener, there was enough excellence to occasionally shake me out of my man-cold and having-to-stand fragility, especially Krakatoa's blistering set.
First support Dressing for Pleasure - female twins with stand-up drummer - provided earnest punk simplicity with raw but heartfelt playing. A folk/punk ditty written in honour of and sent as a demo to Adam Ant displayed the sister's songwriting and vocal harmonising skills to good effect, as well as earning them their tour spot. I also enjoyed their playfully slow to start but eventually rousing cover of The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go.
Highlight of the night for me was second support and South East London Krakatoa's energetic and pulsating set. These guys rocked and rolled with punk punching and echoes of The Who [their website sites The Kinks], including covering Jefferson Airplane so I was bound to find a connection [and 'connecting' will be the conceptual hypothesis of this review, though developing thoughts previously expressed in this blog, especially regarding the recent Kaiser Chiefs gig at Falmouth]. Songs like Fat Cats delivered the political anger with which we should all relate unless working in a bank or other criminal financial institution, and Psychedelic City continued the rock rush with its appealing referencing of influence. I could mention more songs but that doesn't really matter - it's the live delivery that impressed. I also liked the positioning on stage, a result of necessity rather than design I suspect, though it might be time to reconsider that stage set-up: all five guys were placed in a line across the front of the stage - with two drum kits set up for Adam Ant's band, there wasn't room for any other configuration. With, from left to right, guitar, guitar, vocal, bass and drum it was a mini regiment of advancing primal sound. And having drummer Josh Boulton at the front right rather than the conventional centre back was, along with bassist Andrew Monin, influential because the tight and pounding playing of both added to the overall roaring race of a set. The drumming was absolutely vital.
The guys seemed to be having genuine fun and there was a freshness to their performance - despite clear precursors - that also appealed and had me moving non-stop away from the wall on which I leaned for much of the rest of the night. At the sales table at the end of the whole gig, a delightfully inebriated Monin made sure I bought the bargain bundle of Krakatoa goodies which included a tee-shirt, both cds on offer and a badge all for £10, and I just hope he and the band continue to have so much fun as well as increasing recognition as they surely inspire others with these great live sets. The recorded sound struggles to capture that live energy, if I'm honest, so you have to get out there and see them in the sweat.
I've planted enough hints that Adam Ant didn't thrill me as much as Krakatoa, but that is genuinely because I don't have that link to his prime period that so many of the adoring and enthusiastic audience at the Phoenix clearly did. Krakatoa inspired partly because of echoes to my past, but it was mainly the direct energy of their moment of performance. Adam Ant's band, and Adam's actual performance, were professional and solid, but I didn't get that adrenaline rush of seeing a 'past' hero resurrected on a 2011 stage.
What I mean is what I have expressed before. On the one hand, the 80s passed me by musically. Whilst I liked Adam Ant's pop new romanticism enough at the time, I didn't go out and buy it. I watched on Top of the Pops and enjoyed the spectacle and the catchy, original tunes. But those tunes didn't tap into either adolescent awakenings or any other nuances of experience: I was starting a career and raising a family and marking thousands of essays! I was probably still in mourning for the punk rousting of prog and clawing the latter back in my private, covert listening at the expense of most 80s new music.
On the other hand, it is about that identification with a sound of its time for whatever reason. Inasmuch as I found I related to Kaiser Chiefs 'hits' from Employment at their recent Falmouth gig, it's clearly not about age or time entirely. For whatever reason, I missed out on the buzz of Adam Ant at the time of his first appearance and thus I wasn't going to be retrieving it at this gig. But most at the Phoenix did and that was wonderful to watch. Indeed, I often did rather than watch the band on stage. I did enjoy Adam's performance of Wonderful [for which I was ridiculed, but I've always liked 'pretty' songs and I thought he sang it beautifully] and I did seriosuly enjoy Antmusic. What a brilliant anthem.
Of course they played all the hits and these were hugely enjoyable. Adam professed disdain for his 'no 1s' before performing them and I wasn't totally convinced by this, especially after later in the set and a short tirade against, I believe, the BBC and other musical institutions/establishment, when he arrogantly and proudly announced his next performance of a previous 'no 1'. This paradox is certainly forgivable because it isn't serious, but I would like to have seen more comfort with the hits that made him famous and the fans who turn up to hear them, honouring that reality.
One performance element I must mention and celebrate: Adam can yodel. He can yodelyodelyodelyodel [that's how it sounds, if you weren't paying attention]. His yodelling wouldn't go amiss at the Grand Ol' Oprey. Brilliant.
As I was reminded, this is all only opinion, and this of course has been an adamant [!] mantra I have stated time and time again in this blog. I enjoyed the whole gig - the music and the company I was with. As I said, it reminded me of just how therapeutic live music is for the heart and soul - and the fragile body of someone stoically listening with his man-cold! But if they could only bottle up the medicinal mania of Krakatoa......