Shine A Light: Bryan Adams, A Review.
Mister Bryan Adams is a man defined by numbers.
100 million records (and 17 million albums) sold. A record- breaking 16 weeks in peak chart position (thanks to outlaw anthem (‘Eveything I Do) I Do It For You’)). 20 Juno awards; 3 Ivor Novellos; 1 Grammy. 69 singles released; 14 studio albums. And just one man, nearing sixty, ginger-going-grey, playing to a packed-out crowd at Liverpool’s newly-(re)named M&S Bank Arena. (I guess Jimmy quit, and Jodie got married.)
For, despite being lucky enough, over his career, to have collaborated with the likes of Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, and, er, Pamela Anderson (okay, perhaps ‘lucky’ is somewhat relative) this time he was going it solo. No support act, just him and his (vast array of) guitar(s), entrancing the Scouse crowd over a 2-hour, 25-song set. Not bad for an almost-sexagenarian. Consider me, and my fellow concert-goers, suitably impressed, Mr. Adams. This was day 5 of his Shine A Light tour, British-leg.
He was clearly particularly proud of the latter stat (above): the fact of his recently-released fourteenth studio album, also entitled Shine A Light, got many a shout-out. ‘A few days ago when I played a set I had thirteen albums out,’ he crowed. ‘Now I have fourteen.’
So extensive a back-catalogue makes for a Pick ’n’ Mix of a setlist. The cloying, saccharine-sweet strains of love ballads like ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ were followed by a rousing rendition of ‘Back To You,’, with all the fizz and zing of a sugar-coated cola bottle. Alongside something old was something new: he kicked of proceedings with a recent hit, and played title track, the country-influenced, Sheeran co-written 2019 single ‘Shine A Light’ in both full form, and cleverly as a riff to introduce a classic hit. Yet, as the sages Slade once pointed out, ‘the old songs are the best.’ It was these undeniable tunes– timeless tracks like ‘Cloud Number Nine’ and ‘Summer of ’69’– that spurred the crowd most speedily to their feet. The arena was sitting-room only, but most didn’t really get value for money from their plush seats. ‘You Belong To Me’ even had some line dancing in the aisles. Though, to be fair, this was instigated by Bryan- as well as encouraged by the camera panning round the jiving crowd and projecting the best (or worst?) up for all to see. How-dear!
Aside from issuing dancing edicts like some sort of singing Stalin, he also engaged in a bit of inter-song banter. He prefaced some songs with a note about their origins- ‘Shine A Light’ as an ode to his parents, especially his 91-year-old battleaxe of a mother. Before another, he explained why his love of the British Isles- where both parents hail from- had inspired him to cover the Dubliners shanty ‘Whisky in the Jar’. Congenial and down-to-earth, he even enquired after the local landmarks (though no-one quite knew what ‘tent’ he was referring to. Paddy’s Wigwam?) Soft-spoken in contrast to his gravelly vocal tone, he had a genuine and likeable unstariness to his repartee.
Adams– who turns 60 this coming Bonfire Night- opted not for firework staging, but understated colour-changing lighting bars as backdrop, suspended mid-set to either side for the giant screen that dominated the set to remain unobscured. It relayed not only questionable line dancing but music video-style shorts to accompany each track. You could sense the hand of Bryan Adams the photography enthusiast at work here. Most inventive was the video concept for ‘Summer of ’69:’ the blank canvas of the human body scrawled with the song’s lyrics, revealed piecemeal as they were sung. (Though I’m not sure anyone would truly want ‘We were young and restless’ tattooed on their forehead.) Even Helena Bonham-Carter got in on the act, (unfathomably) swirling wraith-like in bedsheets for the video backing ‘Get Up.’ (Still not quite forgiven for the heartless slaughter of Neville’s parents, might I add.)
The video medium also gave Bryan the activist an opportunity to promote his humanitarian views, showing him donating to the homeless, snapping selfies with fans, and generally being an all-round good guy. After all, he has campaigned for issues as worthy, and diverse, as a child’s right to education and a chicken’s right to humane slaughter by KFC. (He himself has been vegan since 1989, not Veganuary 2019.) A bit of an anomaly in the ’business, then: a soft-hearted hard-rocker with a moral compass. He was even staying behind after the gig to sign fans’ album jackets. Good ol’ Bry.
As the concert nears its end, fans Shine A Light, i Phone- style.
To end, let’s indulge in some Bryan Adams-themed arithmetic.
Find the difference between his hits ‘Summer of ’69’ and ’18 Til I Die.’
Take away the lyric ‘All for 1 and all for love.’
Times this by the difference between album 11 and single ‘Cloud Number 9.’
Still awake? You now have the percentage rating of the ‘Shine A Light’ concert. I have been listening to Bryan since my primary school canteen still stocked turkey twizzlers, and his music came in cassette form. Nothing can beat the experience of seeing him live, though. Next time you are on tour, Bryan, I’m coming Back To You!