After a few years either commemorating landmark albums or playing acoustic shows, Bryan Adams was back on a more conventional tour of his adopted home country in support of last year’s ‘Get Up’ album, which was a return to form of sorts.
That title was appropriate as it should be the response to any Adams live show, which was why I headed down from London to Bournemouth, as alone among his tour dates this one was partially standing (not to mention more intimate than the 02 Arena) –an ironic twist since the unfair popular stereotype of this coastal resort is of its gerontocratic and sedentary population.
The new album cover formed the backdrop, and as the raspy-voiced Canadian came on stage with his four piece band, all looking very dapper in white shirts and dark suits, they opened with ‘Do What You Gotta Do’, which as with much of the new material came over better as a fun live track.
But, mindful of what the audience wanted to hear, he kept their attention by alternating for a while between old and new- so hands were waving to ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ before ’Don’t Even Try’, which bore the marks of Jeff Lynne and a surprisingly early ‘Run to You’, with Bryan and Keith Scott combining on guitar, gave way to ‘Go Down Rocking’, which did so, albeit in a more fifties-rockabilly- inspired style.
After Gary Breit’s unmistakeable piano intro to ‘Heaven’, Bryan allowed the crowd to sing the first verse while Keith improvised on the original solo in a style which my companion correctly compared to Mark Knopfler.
The long-standing guitarist, while never self-indulgent and always putting the songs first, is nevertheless a fine player, not to mention a dab hand at pulling axe hero poses, and gave what otherwise may have been a rather bland sound a harder edge as he made the Reckless duo of ‘Kids Wanna Rock’ and ‘Its Only Love’ significantly rockier.
It was a pleasure to hear ‘This Time’ still in the set while ‘You Belong to Me’ was another fun newie with its ‘Get It On’ inspired riff. The strength of Bryan’s material was shown in the way one of rock’s great anthems, ‘Summer of 69’ was casually slipped into the middle of the set- while as joyous as ever, it would perhaps have sat better at a later stage in the night.
It also marked something of a turning point as a Bryan Adams gig seems to reverse the more traditional set pacing, where bands gradually crank up to a rockier climax. In contrast, having gone out all guns blazing for the first 50 minutes, the pace then dropped and his crooner side came out, beginning with ‘When You’re Gone’ delivered solo and acoustic, then ‘Everything I Do (I’ll Do It for You)’. I must admit I have always found the song rather dreary but then again admired the way he could casually throw a song that was No 1 for 16 weeks in mid-set rather than save it up for the climax.
After the spotlight was placed on a dancer picked out in the balcony for ‘If You Wanna Be Bad You Gotta Be Good’, the last of the ‘Reckless’ classics in ‘Somebody’ felt like thin gruel among a series of ballads, including ‘Here I Am’, which admittedly sounded quite impressive and a worthy film soundtrack as stallions rampaged on the screen behind, an acoustic ‘I’ll Always Be Right There’ and audience request ‘Please Forgive Me’. This may of course have reflected my rockist biases and doubtless most of the crowd, who looked like Magic FM listeners, thought differently!
Luckily ‘Cuts Like A Knife’ upped the tempo in trademark fashion with crowd participation, Keith stretching out on guitar and the band turning to face drummer Mickey Curry as he drove on the beat, before a couple of agreeably dumb fist punchers in ‘18 Till I Die’ and the only other decent song from that album, ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You’.
The encores began with ‘Brand New Day’ which to me is his most convincing song for many a year and deserves to be a permanent addition to the set after this tour, and a medley of ‘Come On Everybody’ and ‘All Shook Up’. However, once again the tempo was taken down a pace with the band leaving the stage and Bryan seeing the show out by himself, beginning with ‘She Knows Me’ and ‘Straight From The Heart’, where he even played harmonica Neil Young-style. Even with simple acoustic accompaniment, these songs had a warmth and directness that projected them throughout the arena.
Introducing ‘All For Love’, he showed dry humour by mentioning he had collaborated with superstars in Sting and Rod Stewart, then glanced towards the wings and teasingly said ‘and tonight…..’, while the crowd responded to his exhortation to turn their phone lights on, in the modern equivalent of the old cigarette lighter tradition.
That surely was the climax of the night, but no, in an apparently improvised move he pointed to someone in the crowd who had earlier shouted for ‘Remember’ from his very first album in 1980 and delivered it. It was a great piece of personal symmetry for me as at my first ever Adams concert, as a spotty teenager in 1985 at Hammersmith, he had opened with the same song.
The everyman to the end, he then took out his own phone to pose for a selfie in front of an appreciative crowd. This 2 hour set, in which remarkably he whizzed through nearly 30 songs with minimal padding, was an advert for the timeless showbiz values of good tunes, respecting the audience and putting on a show for them.
The kid may not rock as hard as he used to, but no-one could quibble at a good night out and, never having been fashionable in the first place, there is no reason why the ever-youthful 56 year old cannot continue to entertain for a very long time to come.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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