Where do I start to describe a Bryan Adams gig? The popular Canadian rocker opened his set at the LG Arena on the B stage amongst the crowd at the back of the hall and looked a man at ease with himself and his adoring public. As one of only 4 photographers there I watched the strange spectacle of a back to front Bryan Adams through the back of the giant screens that broadcast the whole night in arty black and white — surely a nod towards Bryan’s alter ego as a photographer. BA played solo acoustic for the first 2 numbers, which if my memory serves me right were Can’t Stop This Thing We Started & Please Forgive Me. But please forgive me if I’ve remembered that wrongly!
Then the lights came up on the main stage to reveal the band – Keith Scott (guitar), Gary Briet (keys), Norm Fisher (bass) and Mickey Curry (drums) — who immediately got the near sell-out crowd bouncing with delight as BA went on the rock star’s equivalent of the royal walkabout through the crowd, mic in hand to the main stage, slapping hands and getting mauled all the way.
We were led in for songs 4 & 5, which I can’t for the life of me remember what they were (perhaps someone can enlighten me!) and back out as the band struck up 18 Till I Die.
As I scooted round to my seat, across the other side of the stage the initial frenzy dropped to a more sedate pace as Bryan played some no less impressive country/rock numbers and continued to intersperse nicely the classic tracks with songs from the new album 11. Summer of ’69 soon appeared to much delight, complete with extended intro and Bryan passing vocal duties to the crowd for the first 4 lines. Here, BA and Keith were in their theatrical element — running between the podiums on either side of the stage with a well-practiced Hi 5 as they crossed centre stage. When they tried that again later on during Run To You Keith must have been getting tired as he struggled to stay upright!
Then we were reminded of the scope of Bryan Adams’ work as he followed Summer of ’69 with Everything I Do — a song forever associated with a certain dodgy Kevin Costner movie — the duration of which felt as long as its stay at No 1 in the charts and even had the crowd anticipating the end too soon. Things quickly picked back up with Cuts Like A Knife and followed in the same vain with great BA anthems mixed in with newer tracks like Way of the World.
Soon after, my ears took a bashing from thousands of screaming women clamouring for attention as BA announced he was going to drag someone up on stage with him to perform Baby When You’re Gone. A barmaid and mother of 3 from ‘a little village called Pelsall” called Jenny was the envy of the crowd as she rocked word-perfect through the song in duet with Bryan before being dispatched back to her waiting husband.
Bryan continued to work the audience as he recalled his NEC debut 23 years ago supporting Tina Turner.
“Tonight we don’t have Tina Turner but we do have… Keith Scott” he announced as the two of them performed a semi-unplugged version of most of It’s Only Love before the rest of the band joined them for a blistering rendition, complete with multiple guitar/drum question and answer solos and acrobatic fretwork from Keith.
More songs from 11 followed and Bryan plugged the new DVD, which is due for release on Nov 10th.
The sound reached a pinnacle during The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You and in general was pretty good for such a large venue. Bryan’s acoustic exploits sometimes got a little lost in the mix but as he seemed to be going for the record for number of guitar changes during a set, this was hardly surprising. I counted at least two mid-song changes of guitar, while in contrast Keith retained his trusty black Fender Strat for the whole gig. If that guitar was alive it would be battered, bruised and thoroughly knackered after its none too subtle treatment for much of the night!
Run To You (what else?) signalled the end of the two hour set and sounded strangely not as good as it should have done (except for the drums which sounded great all night). Perhaps it was the anticipation. Anyway a full and ecstatic LG Arena weren’t complaining.
I slipped out as BA introduced the band and left the stage momentarily to cue the obligatory foot stamping to call the legend back for a little more.
Tonight was a well-worked treat that gave the audience all their favourites as well as showcasing the new album. That’s sometimes a difficult task to pull off but it was accomplished with a smattering of rock theatre by a man clearly enjoying himself.
Review & Photos – Steve Bulley