lørdag 21. mars 2015

Bryan Adams Reckless show reviewed - it's all about rock'n'roll

In recent years I have done a bit of musical soul searching, debating with myself as to whether or not my previous years as a "professional" music critic really had as much merit as I once thought. The obvious answer - when you pose such a question in the first place - is "probably not". What I'm getting at is that as a music critic you have a certain set of favourite acts, musical preferences and maybe even certain musical values, and more importantly, you have quite a few of the same that doesn't fit the norm and that you love to hate.

Bryan Adams is that guy that any music critic that enjoy, say... Bruce Springsteen, Dave Edmunds or Steve Earle - and let's not forget Ryan Adams - love to hate. True, I still get a rash when I hear "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)", but lately I have come to "understand" Bryan Adams' music on another level, one that simply says "this is fun".

That was my attitude towards the 55 year old Canadian rocker before the show he did in the concert hall Oslo Spektrum last night, and that is still my attitude today, even more so actually.

Foto: Helge Mikalsen
What Adams does on his current tour is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his 1984 breakthrough album Reckless. Touring with a tight band that is all about the music, he enters the stage with a smile, going straight into the song "Reckless", the title track that never was as it was left off the album and emerged last autumn as one of several bonus tracks on the remastered anniversary editions of Reckless. He may not go for the jugular right from the start, but on the second song, the album's opening track "One Night Love Affair", it's evident that this evening will be about rock'n'roll in its simplest, most basic guise. The next song is "She's Only Happy When She's Dancin" followed by "Run To You", and everything is perfect. We will get what we are here for, a night of fun, nothing more and nothing less, even if the next song, another outtake named "The Boys Night Out" may be a little less impressive.

OK then, time to reflect a bit further about my views on Bryan Adams and his music. What strikes me is that although I'm really not that familiar with these songs, mostly having shunned them because I used to despise Adams, they (mostly) appear to be instantly familiar, instantly recognizable and to a certain degree gorgeously fun and dead catchy. The backing band known as The Dudes Of Leisure is amazingly tight, the sound is perfect and everything boils down to the fact that all five musicians seem to be having a great time themselves. I'm sure that this is what it's been about for Adams throughout his entire career, the joy of playing in a rock'n'roll band with musicians that are your friends and that know you as well as you know them, both in a musical sense as well as a personal one. Adams and fellow guitar slinger Keith Scott go at the job like there's no tomorrow, and the bass and drums, played by Norm Fisher and Mickey Curry respectively, is as tight as they come. The perfect band is then complimented by keyboardist Gary Breit whose job is to add mostly subtle layers of depth to the songs. This is rock'n'roll in its most basic and carefree form, not like the locomotive that is Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, but more like the train wreck that is AC/DC or ZZ Top.

Adams' best power ballad, "Heaven", takes the proceedings down a notch, or wait. Does it really? For the first few stanzas Adams leaves the singing to the audience that knows it by heart and ecstatically shouts out the lyrics before Adams finally decides to help out. Then it's down to the nitty gritty again as the band explodes into a frenetic "Kids Wanna Rock", which sounds like ZZ Top at speed. Adams and Scott then have a bit of fun with "It's Only Love", originally a duet with Tina Turner, a guest spot that Adams then acknowledges with a certain degree of attitude after having finished the song, implying that upon the time of the record's release Turner was a huge star on the back of her Private Dancer album whereas he was not. "It's Only Love" helped him to become a star as well.

The band is not following the album's original chronology, but who cares. What follows next are "Long Gone", "Somebody", "Ain't Gonna Cry", and finally my all time favourite Bryan Adams song, "Summer Of '69", a song that I've always loved and never been afraid to admit. This is pure brilliance.

There's one last Reckless outtake, "Too Hot To Handle", before he's going for the inevitable "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)". Thankfully, this is where I have decided on a trip to the bathroom without knowing what was in store so I miss half of it. Next up is "If Ya Wanna Be Bad , Ya Gotta Be Good", a song that first appeared on the 1997 live album MTV Unplugged and this is where he needs a woman to dance for him, spotting a good-looking blonde in a see-through top among the audience, slightly embarrassing her, but she bravely dances throughout the song with the spotlight on her the entire time. Then it's "Cut Like A Knife" and the guy beside me is leaving, having heard the songs that he came to hear.

The rest of us stay, and thank God for that. There is still something of a hit parade to come, and we are treated to "Can't Stop This Thing We Started" which is a great pop song, as is "When You're Gone", the duet he did with Mel B of Spice Girls on the 1998 album On A Day Like Today. He performs it alone with an acoustic guitar as his only help, and it's a great sing-a-long moment. The rest of the show is a little hodge-podge in nature, but mostly fun. Among the highlights are "18 Til I Die", "Cloud Number Nine" and the wonderful "She Knows Me" (alone again), the only Adams-penned song on his recent covers album Tracks Of My Years, which is his best song in years.

He ends the show alone, with "She Knows Me", the Cuts Like A Knife track "Straight From The Heart" and a surprisingly good version of the dreaded "All For Love", leaving the audience highly pleased, yours truly most definitely included. It may not have been an evening for the history books, but boy was it a lot of fun! I would love to see this band again, and hopefully I will.

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