Bryan Adams shone a light on his incredible catalogue of music, which stretches over 40 years. He also gave a nod to some of his own influences, including The Clash and Thin Lizzy, leaving the packed Spark Area reckless and waking up the neighbours as they sang along to many of their teenage anthems.
The Kingston Ontario-born singer-songwriter has had a swag of number ones and top-selling albums (65 million and counting) that most other contemporary artists would die for. However, for many he is seen as an artist of the 80s and early 90s and remembered for the Robin Hood soundtrack hit single (Everything I Do) I Do It For You off Waking Up The Neighbours. While incredibly successful in the charts (almost too much some might say), he has continued to write songs and delivered work with other artists staying true to his own recipe of rock and roll.
I can still remember the Friday night I purchased Reckless back in mid-1984 and popped the needle down on the vinyl for the first time. I played it end-to-end for the rest of the night, reading the lyrics and connecting to one song in particular. I couldn’t wait for the next day to take it round to my mate’s houses and show off what was one of the albums of the year and an artist who was connected to some of the best days of our lives. So it was with that similar anticipation I couldn’t wait to finally see the man live 35 years after he exploded into my life. But the big question was could he deliver that same excitement after all these years?
The simple answer was hell yes!
The stage was minimalistic, but the video backdrop helped to sustain the crowd’s anticipation until hollers and screams echoed around the arena as Bryan Adams and his band hit the stage and launched into their two-hour set kicking off with Ultimate Love off one of his many compilation albums called, funnily enough, Ultimate. A rocking affair that had many of the seated gentry downstairs leaping to their feet straight away, ready to dance the night away.
If that wasn’t enough to get the show going This Thing We Started, off Waking Up The Neighbours, ensured that anyone still sitting downstairs was up out of their seats and so it remained for the rest of the night. Adams sounded as good as ever with the band really getting into the groove early and seemingly enjoying it as much as the crowd.
Run To You followed and brought back those teenage years for me and many others it seemed, with great guitar rifts and licks coming off lead guitarist and life-long buddy Keith Scott, who has been with the man since they were 16. As Bryan said later “my brother from another mother”, highlighting not only their friendship but collaboration over all those years, and their chemistry on stage was infectious right through the whole gig.
Adams welcomed the audience saying this was the first inside concert he has ever played in New Zealand and felt it was their first real one. I must say he impressed me because just an hour and 15 minutes before he hit the stage he was live on 7 Sharp talking about his music and singing Shine A Light (the first single off his latest album of the same name) which coincidentally was the next song. Co-written with Ed Sheeran, the song is a classic pop-rock number with a catchy chorus and could have been off any one of the fourteen studio albums he has released over the years. The audience reacted by shining their phone lights back to him, which made Spark Arena seem like another constellation just for a moment, adding to the atmosphere of the night.
The song selections were excellent, mixing old with new, some wonderful lighting and camera work while utilising the big screen to bring the whole audience on stage from time-to-time during the night.
Of course, Bryan Adams played all the ballads as well which included (Everything I Do For You) I Do It For You, Heaven, and Please Stay. But the one that resonated with me the most was the tale he told about his family saving up $1,000 for college, only for him to drop out of school at fifteen. At seventeen, he asked his folks if they could buy a piano, which they did and a year later he penned Straight From the Heart, a song that was later released on his breakthrough album Cuts Like A Knife. With the recent passing of his father, it was quite a poignant moment and highlighted his significant craftsmanship, while showcasing the love and support of his family in helping him start his dream.
Summer of 69 was, of course, one of the most anticipated songs of the night and, with the crowd now well and truly in their comfort zone, it lifted most of the punters out of their seats. The whole place was singing along to that song, which many now realise wasn’t about an actual summer in 1969 but more to do with young love and a very hot summer by all accounts. When I first heard this track, it captured everything that I enjoyed about those early teenage summers: being with mates, experiencing many things for the first time, having this song (which I suspect for many others of that era) playing at every party and being one of the soundtracks to your life.
The bangers kept coming with Cuts Like A Knife and 18 Till I Die stretching the hardiest fan to the brink of having to sit down. Luckily the set was nicely broken up with an acoustic request show of sorts. The lovely Please Forgive Me was yelled out by three fans all wearing one word of the title on their t-shirts and engaging enough for Bryan to get a selfie with them.
Brand New Day closed the main performance and, with the obligatory stamping of feet and yelling and screaming, everyone came back on stage and played I Could Get Used To This, and Sonny Curtis of the Crickets cover (made famous by the Clash) I Fought The Law.
The band waved goodbye and left Bryan Adams to finish off the night with three acoustic versions of Whiskey In The Jar ( a 17th century ditty made famous by the Dubliners and of course Thin Lizzy), Straight From The Heart and closing with the Three Musketeers' All For Love hit with Rod Stewart and Sting back in the day.
I don’t think, looking around, there was anyone who didn’t feel they were part of something special with young and old rubbing shoulders together and dusting off the odd air guitar. It’s fair to say it was a standout show and one that will be well remembered after this summer of 2019.