Adam Ant has always been one of a kind.
With his pioneering band Adam & the Ants and as a solo artist, Ant brought together music, fashion, philosophy and video in a way so tied to his individual style that, even as more and more of today’s bands mine early ’80s New Wave for influences and ideas, Ant pretty much still stands alone.
In between preparations for his new “Anthems” American tour, which stops at the Beacon Theatre Sept. 13, Ant says he came up with that style, as well as hits like “Prince Charming” and “Goody Two Shoes,” because he had no choice.
Before Ant formed Adam & The Ants, he was booted from the band Bow Wow Wow on the recommendation of their manager Malcolm McLaren.
“I had to start again,” Ant recalls, calling from his London home. “We felt like with ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier,’ we had lots to prove. We had the drive every new band has to have, making music like your lives depended on it.”
He jokes about being pretentious enough to think that they could create their own sound. “We were even more pretentious to call it ‘Antmusic,’ ” he says, laughing. “You had to back that up. You have to be able to deliver it and be provocative. You have to want a shot at the title.”
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It quickly became clear that Adam & the Ants could, well, stand and deliver. Within three years, the band quickly racked up seven Top 10 singles in the United Kingdom, including No. 1 hits “Stand and Deliver” and “Prince Charming.”
And when it came time to try to conquer America, they approached it with equally provocative plans. “When we went to New York for the first time, we arrived on a Spanish galleon,” Ant says, laughing. “Our record company made quite a fuss of it and it went really, really well.”
Much of those first trips to America are a blur of interviews and concerts, Ant says, adding that he doesn’t remember much about the shows he did at Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead or the Malibu in Lido Beach. But he did come away with a warm feeling about the metropolitan area. “I remember the people as open-minded,” he says. “New York and Long Island were very welcoming to us.”
Ant wants to keep that legacy alive on the current tour. “It’s a bit like a marathon every night,” he says. “There are certain points where I think, ‘This next bit is quite demanding.’ It’s important to order the songs just right so that we’re building it up. It takes a lot to get it sounding right.”
The current show is very much a balancing act. “It’s so great to get everybody singing, singing a tune they all know,” Ant says. “But sometimes when you throw in a B-side, the reaction is just as good because they never thought they would hear that song live. It’s a combination of both and we see how they work together.”
In a way, it’s that delicate balance that explains why more new-new-wave bands haven’t attempted more Adam & the Ants-styled music. However, Ant says the answer is simpler — it’s because they didn’t use a synthesizer.
“A new band can lock into that pretty easily,” he says. “We came from post-punk and punk. We were about live rock and roll. We had two drummers and no programming or sequencing. We never really had that electronic beat.”
The band’s intense live shows simply added to its untouchable reputation. “Our sound gets even more raw when you play that live, even wilder,” he says. “It’s a bit harder to start a band with an ’80s ideal without a synthesizer. We didn’t have it. Without it, you pretty much had us and the Stray Cats.”
Ant promises that he will try to live up to the reputation. “We are trying to keep things as raw as possible without incorporating samples,” he says. “There are no medleys in the show. We are keeping them to the same arrangement.”
One change, though, is in “Prince Charming,” which Ant says has a harder arrangement. “There’s more guitar involvement now,” he says. “I didn’t do it live for many years because it was softer. It didn’t have the same clout live as the rest of the songs. . . . It does now.”
Ant says the reaction to the U.K. leg of the “Anthems” tour made him want to bring it to America.
“It feels so good representing the music live and relying on the videos,” he says. “I look out and see a cross-section of age groups at the show. Some people are quite young. It’s very gratifying to see. But it also means we gotta produce the goods.”
WHO Adam Ant
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Sept. 13, Beacon Theatre, Manhattan
INFO $40-$70; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Adam rarely bombed
Adam Ant’s “Anthems” tour is designed to combine Ant’s biggest hits and some of his strongest rarities. But the theme showcases how many anthems he delivered solo and with The Ants. Here’s a look at some of the best.
ANTMUSIC (1980, No. 14 rock chart)
OUTLOOK The edgy guitars and driving beat was supposed to be a rebellion against the predictability of disco and classic rock.
TELLING LYRIC “Unplug the jukebox and do us all a favor / That music’s lost its taste, so try another flavor: Antmusic.”
STAND AND DELIVER (1981, No. 38 dance chart)
OUTLOOK The Dandy Highwayman’s look blossoms into an entire ideology of embracing individuality.
TELLING LYRIC “I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention.”
PRINCE CHARMING (1981)
OUTLOOK Value your individuality and the individuality of others.
TELLING LYRIC “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”
GOODY TWO SHOES (1982, No. 12)
OUTLOOK Don’t let peer pressure dictate your actions.
TELLING LYRICS “We don’t follow fashion, that’d be a joke / You know we’re going to set them, set them, so everyone can take note, take note.”
STRIP (1983, No. 42)
OUTLOOK The best relationships are built on equality.
TELLING LYRICS “We’re just following ancient history / If I strip for you will you strip for me?”
— GLENN GAMBOA