I go to a lot of rock concerts and often, the artist is so good, I go back for more. But rarely have I felt compelled to return as many times as I have to see Canadian singer/songwriter, Bryan Adams. Over the years, I have been to so many of his shows, I’ve actually lost count of the exact number but I estimate that this one marked possibly the twentieth time I have seen him perform, both here and overseas. However, it has actually been a few years now since the last time I saw Bryan perform a full rock arena show. In recent years, he seemed to have drifted away from the format that we had come to expect from the singer. But on Thursday night, at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong, we saw the Bryan Adams of old and I was quickly reminded of the reasons why I keep coming back.
From the moment the band launched into ‘House Arrest’, from the very successful early 90s album, Waking Up the Neighbours, the mood was set. In fact, Bryan played a huge chunk of this album in his two and a quarter hour set. As he pointed out, it had been twenty years since the album’s release and that alone warranted giving many of the tracks a good run on this tour. One of those tracks was the upbeat ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ which made an early appearance in the show and Adams didn’t stop. For the next two and a quarter hours, he played hit after hit after hit. The concert was, essentially, a Greatest Hits show. All killers and no fillers, as they say.
The show also featured a number of tracks from arguably one of the best rock albums ever recorded, Reckless, which spawned several Top 10 singles including one of his biggest ever hits, ‘Summer of 69’ which has become something of a rock anthem. Adams is always guaranteed a great response to this one and it never fails to get the crowd on their feet.
Bryan Adams is known equally as well for his beautiful and romantic love songs as he is for his down to Earth rock ‘n’ roll and the fans love both. As he finished singing ‘Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven’, again from the Waking Up the Neighbours album, he commented that ‘You can’t get much more romantic than that.’ But he then proceeded to prove himself wrong by belting out such sublime ballads as ‘Heaven’, the Spanish influenced theme from the movie, Don Juan, ‘Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?’ and, of course, another movie theme and perhaps his biggest hit to date, ‘Everything I Do (I Do it For You)’, after which, the crowd rose to their feet in thunderous applause, leaving Adams to remark ‘Maybe I should have done that one earlier!’
As I mentioned, I have been going to see Bryan Adams for many years and I have become very familiar with his shows but, on each tour, he does mix it up a bit to vary the performance. On the ‘So Far, So Good’ tour in ’94, it was the inclusion of a ‘B’ stage which was set up at the back of the venue. At the end of the concert, Adams and his band would go to the ‘B’ stage to perform the encore, giving the fans up the back an opportunity to get up close to the action. On the 18 ‘Til I Die’ tour, he had models parading across the stage during ‘The Only Thing (That Looks Good on Me is You). This time around, there was just Adams and his four piece band on a stark stage, against a wide screen backdrop that, for the most part, showed black and white footage of the show and the occasional film clip, as for ‘Do I Have to Say the Words?’, which featured a black and white clip filmed in Istanbul. And yet another track from the ‘Neighbours’ album has been given a new treatment. For ‘If You Wanna Leave Me (Can I Come Too?)’ the band members left their instruments behind to accompany the singer by drumming on what appeared to be overturned buckets. I’m not too sure it worked in amongst a show of driving rock and soaring ballads but you’ve got to hand it to the man for always being willing to give something different a try.
One of the features of Bryan’s shows that hasn’t changed over the years and that has always been popular is audience participation. And I’m not just talking about the way he gets the crowd singing the ‘Na Na Na’ chorus in ‘Cuts Like a Knife’. Adams is known for getting at least one member of the audience up on stage to sing with him. These days, it’s usually a female to share vocals on ‘When You’re Gone’; the song he recorded with Spice Girl, Mel C (aka Sporty Spice). The young girl seemed overjoyed at being on stage with her idol and must have been the envy of all of her friends that night as she took the opportunity to throw her arms around the singer. Adams asked her name and where she was from. She told us her name was Belinda and she hailed from Wollongong. A pretty popular response considering we were at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong. She certainly grabbed the microphone a little too eagerly as well and joined in with great gusto. But she did a pretty darn good job of it and I admire her total lack of fear, as she put herself out there like that.
There were a couple more romantic ballads ‘Heaven’ and ‘Please Forgive Me’ before Bryan announced that he was about to do a song that he had recorded with Tina Turner. Building up the anticipation that Tina might actually join him for the number, he turned to look at the side of the stage to introduce her, then casually announced ‘But she’s not here tonight’ then, shrugging his shoulders in feigned disappointment, he launched into ‘It’s Only Love’ sans Tina Turner of course.
An impressive laser light show was saved for the end of the night when Bryan performed his hit ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me is You’, followed by the very familiar opening chords to ‘Run to You’ and, as if that wasn’t enough, one last track from the Waking Up the Neighbours album, and my personal favourite, the energetic ‘There Will Never Be Another Tonight’.
The rest of the band left the stage but Adams returned and the crowd shouted for more. Adams picked up his acoustic guitar and commented ‘You know, I’ve got a lot of songs. Lucky for you, I can’t remember half of them.’ But even luckier, he did remember a couple more, starting with an acoustic version of ‘Straight From the Heart’, complete with a bit of harmonica. The finale was yet another movie theme. Adams finished off his show with ‘All For Love’, the song he wrote for the movie The Three Musketeers and which he recorded with Rod Stewart and Sting. I was fortunate enough to see him perform this with Sting at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1994. Tonight, however, it was just Bryan and his guitar and an arena full of very satisfied fans who got more than their money’s worth from the Canadian singer yet again. Bring on the next tour Bryan!
by Sharyn Hamey