The Arena bars and merchandise desks were all doing a roaring trade when I arrived at the cavernous Metro Arena and the sound of laughter from Adams’ devotees echoed all around as the thousands of all ages eagerly made their way to their seats when the klaxon let them know Showtime was imminent.
As the lights went down the roar that greeted the band, who ran on into the shadows would have done the local football team proud. Without any fancy greetings Adams plugged his big gold Gretsch in and BOOM they launched into Reckless(which didn’t feature on the album of the same name; which was celebrating its 30th Anniversary).
As one the body of the hall rose as the last notes died away and not a single person sat down for the next two hours.
This was immediately followed by a fast and frantic She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’ which did indeed start the dancing among the ladies ‘of a certain age.’
Just like his previous visit the muscular Adams and band were all dressed from head to toe in black amid a minimal set which depended on three huge video screens for a centerpiece; with the central one showing the original videos to several songs; which was quite funny as Adams originally came from the ‘double denim’ and mullet haircut generation of Rock and Rollers.
It’s always surprising to find how many Bryan Adams I recognised especially as the first hour was made up of tracks from the Reckless album which must have had 6 or 7 hits on it; with each one greeted like a long lost relative as soon as the third or fourth chord was played.
While I expected and thoroughly enjoyed the rockers that came thick and fast; my actual highlight of the first half was as a (power) ballad called Heaven which barely troubled the UK Charts in 1985; but the simple piano and acoustic guitar arrangement proved what a good songwriter Adams is.
Earlier in the week a friend had described Bryan Adams as ‘poor Bruce Springsteen’ and I knew what he meant; but he was wrong by a million miles. To some degree a lot of the songs tonight were written to a ‘formula’ but what a cracking formula it is; mixing tunes, melodies and powerful lyrics with some pretty funky and dirty guitar playing.
The second hour was a mixture of Greatest Hits with plenty to dance and punch the air to; if that’s your thing (it’s not mine!) and it’s fair to say Summer of 69 and 18 ‘till I Die are as good a pair of Party Rockers as you’ll ever hear played live; and I won’t listen to an argument from anyone.
On the flip side of that coin we also had the schmaltzy ballads When UR Gone and the best-selling single EVER in the UK,Everything I Do when the audience all seemed to hold their phones aloft in unison; but the smile on my wife’s face told me I wasn’t allowed to be rude in my review.
Following a really good concert Adams returned with band and called for everyone to move forward and fill the aisles with dancers. Now, while his intentions were good perhaps the stewards should have been told in advance; as I witnessed a couple of finger wagging arguments that may have spilt some punters evenings.
In their own way the encore songs were spectacularly odd choices. The first was a lackluster version of C’mon Everybodythat did have the majority of fans dancing before the band left the stage leaving Adams to strap on his acoustic again and a harmonica in a cradle. Now; the last twenty minutes had been a maelstrom of Rock & Roll so choosing the downbeat love song Please Forgive Me at this stage of the evening; then another slow ballad Straight From the Heart to end the evening.
I’m normally quite cynical about encores but I think there was the possibility that the next song; All For One was as a direct result of the noise the crowd were making.
Without a new album to promote I was mystified three years ago to see the Sold Out sign on this 10,000 capacity for Bryan Adams, and tonight; the venue was 99% full of devotees; who had turned up to hear the Hits that sound tracked their happier, slimmer times.