Bryan Adams – AO Arena, Manchester – 17th May 2022
It’s been a while. A quick check of the gig history files and ticket stubs reveals the first encounter with Bryan Adams at Manchester’s G-Mex in December of ’87. The days of riding the crest of the wave of the Reckless album and the new the Into The Fire album and although it was some thirty-five years ago, the memory banks recall that it was simply great. He doesn’t really look any older either and with Keith Scoot as his right/left hand lieutenant, it seems like deja vu.
With three nights at the Royal Albert Hall playing three shows showcasing full albums under his belt, he’s out into the provinces with the promise of some outdoor shows in the Summer, he’s really working the UK. Bryan and the band are pretty gig fit too, with a stack of tunes all worked up so later in the show he’s happy to take requests.
So Happy It Hurts is quite an apt album title for a musician who’s always been seen as Mr Nice Guy. The newness of Kick Ass as the opening number owes more than a nod to AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock and the first of several thumping rock numbers that pepper a cleverly paced and judged set.
Most of his biggies seem to fit the ’emotional-love-song-ballad’ tag. Perhaps he’s just a big old romantic at heart… Heaven, Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman and Straight From The Heart get balanced with the rowdy ass kickers. Go Down Rockin’, Not Guity (“we don’t play it that often” – shame, but maybe added so include the reference to poor old Johnny Depp) and Cuts Like A Knife are all harder rocking showstoppers that we can all do a little dance along to rather than shake our heads. “I should have played that earlier,” confesses Bryan after a rip-roaring and rather well-received Summer Of 69 that amongst the plethora, could be the signature tune. A kind of I’ll name that tune after 0.5 milliseconds sor of thing.
Romantic interludes aside, Back To You – from the days when he had a haircut copied by Jack Grealish – and the run-in from here through a most welcome Rebel, the request calls and Cuts Like A Knife is top class. That request set sees Cloud Nine get the smoke/dry ice treatment and Reckless (“anyone remember it? ” he asks the band, “I think it’s in E…”) gets a gentle rocking before we go all sweetness again with Please Forgive Me.
He mentions his sixteen albums and the set is a pretty fair stab at acknowledging most of his legacy along with the collaborations he’s been a part of – Tina, Mel C, Rod, Sting…). There’s even a mini ‘music from films’ set that, after a solo acoustic When You’re Gone (which incidentally rocks as much as any band version) he does that song. You know the one…it was at #1 for long enough and classifies as his Stairway or One Day Like This that everyone loves/everyone hates. As we head towards the full-time whistle, has he missed anything? Probably not, but best not forget to mention the floating inflatable car that goes with the new album title…
When it comes to legacy and your contribution to the annals of rock history, you know you’ve reached some sort of iconic status when Alan Partridge sings one of your songs (“I’m gonna be eighteen ’til I die…” in the all-you-can-eat large plate breakfast scam plan). Conversely, and rather bizarrely, Adams’ These Are The Moments That Make Up My Life does sound strangely like the Partridge documentary, These Are The Places Of My Life. Have we stumbled across something? Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.