.New Wave Pioneer Adam Ant Brings Antmusic to the Fox

One of the ’80s great ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ is sure to ‘Stand and Deliver’ with a celebration of his deep catalog

Adam Ant is complicated, in the best sense of the word. Throughout his career, the man born Stuart Goddard has exhibited a creative streak that’s pulled inspiration from the worlds of music, art, film, television and radio. 

Best known as an artist who emerged from the late ’70s U.K. punk scene (managed by none other than Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren—more on that later), Ant broke through in America right as a new entity called MTV was emerging. Given the London native’s sartorial flair that favored a pirate motif long before Johnny Depp donned his Captain Jack Sparrow apparel, videos for singles like “Stand and Deliver” and “Antmusic” gave Americans a full dose of New Romantic panache straight from the U.K. 

Four decades-plus later, Ant is bringing his Antmusic 2024 Tour to the States with the English Beat in the opening slot. Having spent the pandemic voraciously reading and binging series like Game of Thrones, Ant is glad to once again cross the pond and take fans through his song canon.

“Everybody has been through so much, so I think it would be nice to just concentrate on having an evening of dance and entertainment,” he said in an early March interview. “[This tour is] really a celebration of the catalog and my favorite choices of the songs, with a few I’ve not played before. And there are some that I’ve rarely performed before. I’m really having fun with it and [am] just going to go out there … putting the emphasis on the dancing throughout the evening. I’m getting out there and keeping it very, very simple.”

Growing up hearing the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra and Perry Como around his house, Ant’s music tastes were shaped by television shows like Thank Your Lucky Stars and Ready, Steady, Go!, on which he saw early performances by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Animals. During his time studying graphic design and filmmaking at London’s Hornsey College of Art, he was also playing bass in the pub rock outfit Bazooka Joe.

After seeing the Sex Pistols play their first gig in 1975, Ant dropped out to pursue music. In late 1979, Pistols’ manager McLaren approached him about working together.

“I was at a party, sitting there, and he walked over and asked about the Ants,” he said. “I was very flattered. This was Malcolm, the manager of the Sex Pistols, who was a great entrepreneur with a great sort of mind. He said he’d like to manage me, and said if I got him a thousand pounds, he’d manage me. I did a concert at The Electric Ballroom in London, got my thousand pounds and he was very surprised when I marched through the door and said, ‘Here you go Malcolm, let’s go. Let’s do some work.’ I hired him, really.”

Not long after that McLaren convinced the rest of the original Ants to leave their frontman and form Bow Wow Wow with teenage vocalist Annabella Lwin. Undeterred, Ant rebounded with a new group of Ants that featured a two-man percussion tandem that gave the music a Burundi drumming attack paired with rock-and-roll swagger that yielded the 1980 album, Kings of the Wild Frontier. With MTV’s birth still a year away, Ant’s label began dabbling with the idea of making promotional videos to go with single releases. The swashbuckling vocalist happily took to that task.

“I had grown up watching music, and at art school I learned to do storyboards,” Ant said. “When it came time to do the ‘Stand and Deliver’ video, I was able to sit down and storyboard it. I took it to the director and then we sat down together and had some kind of vision before it was made. It became like a small film, as opposed to just a promo video where you were playing instruments in front of a camera.

“Very fortunately for me, that was around the same time as the birth of MTV,” he continued. “I had quite a number of visual stories up my sleeves. Each single had a video for it, and that really helped me get seen across the U.S.A. before I went and toured there. But I wasn’t comfortable just doing the videos. I did them, but then also went out, did the footwork and did the touring behind it.”

And while those early MTV days ensured Ant was in constant rotation, this period of creativity was sandwiched by times when the art school dropout scratched his acting jones, starting with a role in the 1977 Derek Jarman cult film, Jubilee. Ant returned to being a thespian in a 1985 production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. A move to California was followed by a guest spot in The Equalizer as well as roles in Wayne Wang’s 1987 neo-noir Slam Dance alongside Tom Hulce, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Harry Dean Stanton, as well as the Sharon Stone thriller, Cold Steel, later that same year. It was a special time for Ant.

“I was able to live in Los Angeles and go on auditions,” he said. “More importantly, I enrolled in an acting class in L.A. with a guy named Harry Mastrogeorge. Ray Liotta was in that class. It was nice to be able to do the acting away from music. And when I did go back to music, I went back to it for the right reasons—I really missed it. There was something missing that acting didn’t give me, but music did.”

With the rest of the year filled with dates both here and in his native U.K., Ant promises he has more to deliver on the musical front.

“There will be [more music],” he said. “When it’s bubbling up in the cauldron, I’ll bring it out when the time is right. But for the rest of the year, it’s really live work after that—we’ll see what happens then.”

Adam Ant, with special guest The English Beat, 7:30pm Sunday, Apr. 28 at the Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510.302.2250. thefoxoakland.com.

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