The last time we saw Adam Ant in Pittsburgh -- Stanley Theater, 30 years ago! -- he was doing about 15 songs, top-loaded with the two knockouts, "Ant Music" and "Goody Two Shoes."
This time he was in no hurry.
Having conquered the mental health issues that kept him away from the stage for nearly two decades, the British rocker who helped pioneer the post-punk New Romantic movement returned Friday night, to Stage AE, with a super-sized set of Ant music.
The set list was nearly doubled, to go with a bigger pirate suit for the 58-year-old, but we don't need to dwell on that. Thankfully, he came dressed to the nines in his swashbuckling gear, to which he's added black-framed glasses. (His photo contract with the press requires that his handlers choose the pictures before they run, so you won't see a lot of professional tour shots from publications like the P-G.)
Ant isn't the high-kicking action star he once was, but he still has some moves and a charming stage demeanor. He introduced a song or two, but didn't say any much about being away for so long, from the stage or this city. He's running with a band of hot young blondes dubbed The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse: guitarist Tom Edwards (Fields of Nephilim) and bassist "Joe" with the tribal beat coming from energetic drummers Andy Woodward and Jola, sporting an ultra-cool beehive.
More than half the set came from his first two albums and the new one. His Adam and the Ants debut "Dirk Wears White Sox" covered his trashy punk roots with songs like "Cartouble," "Zerox" and "Whip in My Valise," which he introduced, saying, "People didn't think it was a love song. They thought it was a bit sick when I wrote it. Now there are books like '50 Shades of Gray.' I didn't read it. I don't read filth."
From his more rhythmic second album came the title track "Kings of the Wild Frontier," "Dog Eat Dog" and "Ants Invasion," among others. The new album, "Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter," is more sprawling affair, ranging from hard industrial "Shrink" punk rock "Hardmentoughblokes" to the bluesier "Cool Zombie," sounding like Hendrix's "Hey Joe," with Edwards on slide.
It seemed to me (and hardcore fans always get mad when I say this) that the set bogged down and energy lagged with that volume of songs. Late in the set, he talked about how people often ask him if he missed music. He said he didn't, but that whenever he was served chopsticks he would click out a certain beat. "Ant Music," of course. You could feel the crowd spring back to life and start dancing when they played it, with great energy, followed by "Goody Two Shoes."
The encore, for which he stripped off his top layers for a sleeveless Adam Ant tour shirt, nodded to a big punk/New Wave influence with a churning cover of T-Rex's "Bang a Gong."
Although Ant has lost a little in the vocal department, he still has plenty left. He could have gone a little easier on himself. When I tweeted last night that the 29-song set list might be too much Adam Ant, someone tweeted back "by 26 songs." Ok, harsh. I would probably meet him somewhere in the middle, and certainly add, for the Pittsburgh crowd, "Jolly Roger."
In any case, fans who missed Adam Ant 30 years ago are happy today to check him off on the list of New Wave icons they've seen.
ADAM ANT SET LIST
Marrying the Gunner's Daughter
Dog Eat Dog
Beat My Guest
Stand and Deliver
Room at the Top
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Whip in My Valise
Stay in the Game
Desperate but Not Serious
Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)
Vive Le Rock
Goody Two Shoes
Bang a Gong
Physical (You're So)