Review: Bryan Adams plays the hits for hometown Vancouver fans
By Erika Thorkelson, Vancouver Sun June 17, 2012
“I hope you like screaming,” the woman behind me announces as she climbs into her seat. Then she let’s out a test yelp. Moments later, when Bryan Adams takes the stage, the woman’s voice drowns in the opening notes of House Arrest. Thousands more screams join her.
House Arrest is from Adams’ 1991 album Waking Up the Neighbours. This year’s twenty-date Canadian tour is nominally a tribute to that album’s twentieth anniversary but it’s also a chance for Adams to jump back on the stadium rock bandwagon after his recent acoustic foray.
Onstage Adams looks a bit grizzled, freckles covering his famous chiseled jaw line. He’s dressed in his uniform of jeans and a dark long-sleeved t-shirt. His neck muscles still pop impressively when he belts out the big notes.
As is often the case with these career retrospective tours, the evening doesn’t promise many surprises. People are here for the hits. They want to scream and sing along to Summer of 69, without worrying about any possible irony.
Adams obliges gleefully. When he moves around the stage it doesn’t feel choreographed. A camera strapped to his microphone stand projects onto a giant screen behind him an extreme close-up of a man smiling, doing the thing he enjoys most in the world. He just loves pleasing people.
It also helps that his band is unbelievably tight. Guitarist Keith Scott kills in Kids Wanna Rock. Together Adams and Scott turn the mushy ballad Here I Am from the 2002 animated movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron into an unabashed power ballad. During a wild version of 1987’s Hearts on Fire the two have a guitar battle, which ends with Adams pretending to bludgeon Scott to death with his axe. See? Everyone is having fun.
Adams is a hometown boy and he knows his crowd. When it comes time for a shout out to Vancouver, he does most rock stars one better and calls on specific neighbourhoods. Surrey and Burnaby battle for loudest cheer.
During Do I Have to Say the Words?, the moody black and white video plays in the background complete with footage from of a younger Adams at a show much like this one. He’s consciously twanging on nostalgia and everyone seems to get it. I’m guessing that the song 18 till I Die means a lot more to much of the audience than it did when Adams put it out.
A frenetic bucket drum solo from drummer Mickey Curry transitions awkwardly into a lukewarm performance of, hands down, the most popular teen make-out anthem of 1991. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You was a world-shattering hit for Adams. It earned him a Grammy and an Oscar Nomination for appearing on the Robin Hood soundtrack. But the song’s dull chord progression and noodly guitar solo don’t hold up as well as his more raucous songs.
Adams takes audience participation to the next level by bringing a guest onstage for the duet When You’re Gone. But before he can choose anyone, a woman jumps out of the crowd. He gently points out that he didn’t choose her before security escorts her offstage. In the end a woman named Kelly in a striped dress sort of sing-talks affably through the part that first belonged to Mel C of the Spice Girls. She does an admirable job considering the size of the audience.
The evening keeps digging through Adams huge repertoire, including some of the more inglorious moments in Adam’s career. Cloud Number Nine was a particularly unmemorable song when it was released in 1999 and hasn’t gotten any better.
Adams’ unsuccessful, short-lived attempt at being a bad boy rocker appears with The Only Thing that Looks Good on Me is You. He manages to work the up audience with fancy lights and driving guitar riffs but it’s hard to cover for such terrible lyrics as, “Yeah, it’s you—it could only be you. Nobody else will ever do. Ya baby it’s you that I stick to. Ya we stick like glue”
Thankfully he warms things back up by digging further into his back catalogue with a classic rendition of Run to You from the 1984 album Reckless.
Adams returns solo for a three-song acoustic encore. Because this is his hometown, Adams brings out his mother who watches from behind him as he sings a pretty ballad called Vancouver Bound. He finishes by encouraging everyone to wave cell phones through the air like lighters during All For Love, another of his so-so catalogue entries. He performs it well but it’s a shame that he didn’t finish with something stronger.
At thirty songs in length, the set list Saturday night seemed geared toward quantity but a shorter program that stuck to the greater stuff would have held more punch.