@ Cardiff Coal Exchange

Cardiff Coal Exchange is a unique venue. In the 1880’s, as Cardiff became the biggest coal port in the world, the building was constructed as a base from which to conduct trade negotiations regarding the coal coming from the South Wales Valleys. It was estimated that up to 10,000 people would pass in and out of the building each day, and at one time the price of the world's coal was determined there. The first £1,000,000 cheque was written at the Coal Exchange during a transaction at the turn of the 20th century. It closed in 1958 but reopened some thirty years later as a music venue hosting such bands as Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics and Biffy Clyro.

Whilst it again closed a couple of years ago, it has recently once more seen gigs taking place,if somewhat sporadically. So it was with obvious pleasure I noticed that in the space of three days, two icons of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s (punk) music scene would be visiting. So in the tradition of bygone days of World Heavyweight boxing matches such as the Thriller In Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle, I give you the a six round scrap to the death, namely the Box in Cardiff Docks.

Introducing in the blue corner, fighting out of Marylebone, London, he stands 5 feet 11 inches tall in his Cuban Heels. Weighing in at 185 pounds of follically challenged brawn, he’s back from semi retirement and boasts a criminal record of two counts of affray and one of psychiatric hospitalisation, I give you….Adam Ant.
And in the red corner, from the mean street of Finsbury Park, London we have the undisputed champion of punk. He’s 5 feet 8 inches and weighs 154 pounds ringing wet, with an undefeated record of 35 years of anarchy and destruction, it's Johnny Rotten.

Ladies and Gentlemen, seconds out, lets get ready to rumble!!!!!!!!!!

The Coal Exchange has a capacity of approx 1,000 and both gigs were well attended. But I would say Adam took it by a short head with a near sell out. However it was rather disturbing seeing several middle aged men dressed as dandy highwaymen, especially in the pub beforehand. I’ve added on a point for Public Image Ltd for the young lady who bared her breasts mid set to Mr Rotten. Scorecard: ANT 10 ROTTEN 9

Neither have any original members, but in fairness both have drafted in accomplished musicians. Adam has reverted to the two drum kit set-up that brought him so much popularity back in the day. He loses points as Boz Boorer (Morrissey’s guitarist) is not in attendance, as was the case when I last saw him at the Scala just before Christmas. However, he claws some of these back as backing vocals are supplied by Georgina Baillie. This is Andrew Sachs granddaughter and the lady that cost Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross their jobs on Radio 2. But for me the points have to go to Rotten and his band PIL, as they contain ex-Damned member Lu. He plays a variety of instruments, including something called a saz, which apparently is a long necked Turkish lute (according to his website). But his most striking feature is that he bears an uncanny resemblance to 1970’s children’s TV character Catweazle. ANT 9 ROTTEN 10

Pic Birmingham live more here

Each has a huge back catalogue to call on, although they both took the majority of their set list from their earlier years. I suspect several of the Adam Ant audience were bewildered by the numerous tracks he played from debut album “Dirk Wears Whit Sox” and obscure B-sides. However to an old git like me I was in my element as he blasted through “Catholic Day”, “Fall In”, “Plastic Surgery”, “Beat My Guest”, “Kick”, “Cartrouble”, “Xerox Machine”, “Deutscher Girls”, “Christian Dior”, “Physical”, “Lady” and “Press Darlings”. Though in fairness just when the natives were getting restless he would pull out the big guns with “Stand and Deliver”, “Dog Eat Dog”, “Antmusic”, “Goody Two Shoes” and “Prince Charming”.

Public Image Ltd had less commercial success, but that did not mean their songs were not equally well received by the hardcore audience. “This Is Not a Love Song”, “Rise”, “Flowers of Romance”, “Warrior”, “Albatross”, “Poptones”, “Careering”, “Don’t Ask Me” and “Public Image”. Rather nicely they finished with Leftfield’s “Open Up” which Mr Lydon/Rotten had once contributed vocals to.
Whilst PIL’s numbers were inventive and revolutionary in their time, for me this round has to go to Adam just for his cracking early tracks and the three No 1 singles. ANT 10 ROTTEN 8

Pic from

Adam writes more standard three minute songs, so whilst he had the greater number of tracks he was done and dusted in about an hour and a quarter. PIL on the other hand have several meandering numbers that clock in well over five minutes apiece. I arrived at ten past nine and they were already on stage, and the last strains of Open Up were not heard until nearly eleven. So whilst PIL were the more expensive at £25 a ticket compared to £22.50 for Adam, it cannot be denied that you get more stage time from Rotten & Co. ANT 9 ROTTEN 10

No points to either as £20 (Ant) and £25 (PIL) for a t-shirt is a disgrace. ANT 0 ROTTEN 0

Pic Birmingham live more here

Having now seen both of these twice in the last twelve months I can attest they are definitely worth a night of anyone’s time. It could be said that they are cashing in on the nostalgia boom, however I am certain that both gentlemen would vehemently argue that they remain in it for the music rather than the money.

With Adam it will be interesting to see how many of the audience would go again, given that many appeared to think they were in for a night of commercially driven songs from his highwayman/pirate persona. With Public Image Ltd, as they are more of an acquired taste, I’m sure most would make a return irrespective.

But if pressed for a decision I’ll go with Adam by the narrowest of margins, just for the brilliance of his set list.

Final Scorecard : ANT 38 ROTTEN 37.
All hail the Champion (until the rematch!)

Pic from