It’s hard to talk about the ’80s post-punk period without including Adam Ant. He released Kings of the Wild Frontier in 1980, setting the tone of rebellious confidence that persisted in music throughout the decade. His music and persona was a declaration of war against a music industry he perceived as stale. Now, 37 years after its release, London-born Ant is playing that album at live shows around the world.
“I’m not really doing that so much. It’s really performing the album, eh?” Ant tells the Observer. “That would make it just retro; I’m not trying to do that. It’s more of a revisit of it, a great selection. I did it [in Europe] and it went really well, so I thought I’d bring it to the USA and Canada.”
The tour derailed on Jan. 25 when Ant’s guitarist and musical director, Tom Edwards, 41, died of suspected heart failure, but after postponing concerts in Philadelphia and New York City, Ant has decided to continue with the tour at the encouragement of Edwards’ family, he says. The show will stop at Majestic Theatre on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. (Of the 16-date tour, the Dallas show is one of only four that is not sold out.)
“I’m adamant about getting this show going,” Ant says, aware of the pun. “[I want to have] a consistent show every night. Capture the moment every night. That’s what it always has been, and that’s what I’m very adamant at the moment about. Delivering; that’s the main thing.”
During his heyday, Ant was a theatrical figure recognized by his war paint and his pirate-meets-English-general attire. He says his sartorial choices were inspired by the periods in history he most likes to study. Given the choice to have coffee with anyone dead or alive, his pick is Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, a British officer in the Royal Navy who fought in the Napoleonic Wars.
This sort of dramatic presence was almost required in the ’80s, which saw the birth of the iconic music video. But you shouldn’t expect to see Ant embrace that persona on this tour. It’s not just Ant’s clothing that has changed since he recorded songs like “Antmusic” and “Stand and Deliver,” which fused post-punk with elements of glam rock. In the late ’90s, while driving through Dayton, Tennessee, Ant decided to purchase a home in the town of 20,000 and make it his new home.
“It was a very spontaneous moment,” he says. “It’s a beautiful country down there, absolutely stunning. I’d never experienced that before, so I thought, ‘Well, this feels right.’ And sometimes you do that — very rarely — but I enjoyed it.”
The move was restorative, but he’s now back to living in England. He says he’s working on a new album — his last release was Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter in 2013 — but the Kings of the Wild Frontier tour is his main focus for the time being.
Ant is very cordial when he speaks; when asked about his musical inspirations, he seems to spill over with enthusiasm, working hard to simplify an answer that could take hours to deliver. “Every element of music has inspired me. What I’ve tried to make is quite hybrid; a mixture of sounds,” he says. “Every album I’ve made has had a different starting point. Going from jazz to post-punk, four piece, dark interludes … it’s hard to put my finger on .... I’ve loved everything that’s come before because it’s an art — like Brian Wilson’s vocals.”
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Like Wilson, Ant’s other influences are equally surprising. They represent genres quite different from his own.
“Stevie Wonders early work, Innervisions is a wonderful album, I love that. Emotionally, Heros and Villains by the Beach Boys has a wonderful vocal harmony and it brings out certain emotions you have. There’s a lot of records like that, like What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye is obviously a great record.”
At least one thing hasn’t changed at all for Ant since the ’80s: He doesn’t conform to trends, he creates them.
Adam Ant performs his entire Kings of the Wild Frontier album at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Tickets are $35 to $45 at axs.com.