Going through the motions
Adam Ant - Live at the O2 Academy, Sheffield

Artists returning to the stage after a prolonged break are often received with a slight air of cynicism. Whether it’s a band reformation or an old pop star, each live show has to be treated with the utmost care.

Many remember Adam Ant as the overnight success who, after releasing a handful of albums, disappeared in an air of mystery and rumours. Over the years he’s spoken candidly about his mental health issues and has had numerous musical comebacks.

Now Ant’s full UK tour could either be seen as desperate or a return to form. With rumours of a long overdue new album, it’s hard to imagine the pop star moving on from his trade mark ‘80s costume and make up.

But tonight, the tattooed, bespectacled Ant is barely recognisable, thrusting bizarrely onstage. Joined by The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse, they power through faint hits, echoing the same sentiments on stage.

Ant cuts a strange figure dressed in a feathered pirate hat and all his regalia. Yet it’s as if his attire constitutes all his effort for the show, conveying very little back to his audience. ‘Stand And Deliver’ should be a huge call to arms, a big pop song backed with punk riffs and charging drums. Yet it’s dampened by Ant’s attitude as he throws his mic stand to the floor and aggressively gestures towards the crowd. This brashness continues to alter during the night, but leaves the audience bewildered over his dedication.

His band also provides little support. Joined by Georgina Baillie (of that Brand and Ross scandal) she provides the eye candy but very little else as ‘Lady’ limps with poor lyrics and weak instrumentation.

Ant also remains extremely aggressive towards the audience. After promptly shouting at a couple for having a conversation there’s an air of tension as a heckler is quickly given his marching orders. It’s not until ‘Antmusic’ that the mood begins to mellow a little. ‘Goody Two Shoes’ is the highlight of the night while 'Viva Le Rock' shows off the punk highlights of Ant's personality.

After victimising his audience, a lacklustre encore fails to reignite Ant’s fanbase with ‘Prince Charming’ falling on deaf ears. It's not until the show is stripped back and Ant removes his glasses that we see a hint of that famous cheekbone and a flash of the cockney accent. But somewhere Ant has lost his musical drive, leaving behind a disinterested flailing pop star. When an artist returns it should be for the love of performing, yet Ant is left going through the motions and it distinctly shows.

Words by Ruth Offord
Photos by Jamie Boynton

View a full photo gallery of Adam Ant live at Sheffield's 02 Academy.

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