Bryan Adams, Spark Arena Auckland, March 12
Let’s start with the bleeding obvious: this guy can belt out a song. Performing what he told the Auckland audience was his first ever indoor arena show in New Zealand, Bryan Adams’ voice shook the rafters, and kept them shaking the whole night. At times, it was almost a controlled shout. I preferred the times when he moderated the volume in favour of more touch and finesse, but be in no doubt if you’re out for a rock show with a rock singer, he’s your man.
But inescapable as that big voice was, the over-riding feeling you get watching him perform is that Adams is a decent, thoughtful bloke. The fact he’s been a vegan for many years gives you some sense of his green-tinged take on life. That’s perhaps not what some want in their rock stars, but you are who you are, and it’s best not to hide it. The audience will figure it out anyway. Just as Springsteen does on stage (yes, I know Adams has often been compared to him, and indeed there were Bruce-like touches throughout the show) the Canadian is an inclusive performer, who seems to care about his audience and want them to join in the fun. This they did, and with no hesitation. If the performer in front of you feels like a giving person, you’re more inclined to want to give back.
Adams was in New Zealand just as a new album, his fourteenth, was released. He played us a couple of tracks, the album title Shine a Light, and a cover of the much-covered Whisky in the Jar. But most of the night was devoted to a selection of the songs the crowd wanted to hear. It’s always a mark of a good performer when they deliver songs you know they’ve played thousands of times before, but do so in an enthusiastic way. Adams absolutely nailed big hits like Run To You, Everything I Do, and of course Summer of ’69. His band is tight and no-nonsense, while his forays into acoustic solos were – for me – the most affecting of the show.
Not everything was to my taste. I found some of the video content on the big screen distracting. One had a camera tracking him as he walked through a Canadian shopping mall, recording how some people walked straight past him while others recognised him and stopped him to shake his hand. It was engaging, but so much so I forgot about what was happening on stage. That said, when the camera focussed on the band itself the effect was spot on, especially when they got behind the band and showed us the audience in front of them.
And when you hear song after song, I have to say the non-stop romantic gushiness of the lyrics get a bit much, at least for me. There are more than a few corny lines here. Still, I fond myself forgiving this by concert’s end, simply because of the sincerity and feel-good feel of the show. Any writer who can come up with a song title like The Only Thing That Feels Good on Me is You has something going for him.
I mentioned a few Springsteen touches. That’s not to say Bruce invented them, and I’m sure he borrowed them from someone else, but the requests, the sharing of the microphone with sidekick lead guitarist Keith Scott, a band booty shake to the audience, and a touching family story at the end all brought to mind the Boss.
Fact of the matter is by show’s end the man from Vancouver won me over. His rock is straight up, far from edgy, and perhaps you could say it’s on the safe side. But Bryan Adams delivers it at full throttle, with passion and enjoyment. And man, can he belt out a song…