May 17, 2008
Review by Ross Drake
Better Than: A Night of '80s Karaoke at the Mint.
Stream: The video for "Heaven," featuring enough mullets to embarrass even the most immodest Canadian rock star.
Bryan Adams as Dylanesque troubadour? The concept might seem slightly absurd, but not for those attending the Canadian bubblegum rocker’s solo show at the Independent. Clad in his signature attire – jeans and a black t-shirt – the 48-year-old son of Kingston Ontario took the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, dutifully tearing through a set of greatest hits and selections from his latest opus, "11."
Give the man his due. Time has compromised neither his look nor his booming voice, and though Adams rarely deviated from the most basic interpretations of his voluminous songbook, delivering straightforward renditions of crowd pleasers like “It’s Only Love” (minus Tina Turner) and “Run To You,” his performance was spirited enough to inspire raucous cheers from the sold-out house.
He earned them, for the most part. Although Adams is, at this stage of his career, peddling nostalgia to children of the ’80s – he’ll be touring this summer with Foreigner, in one of those classic-rock package deals designed for fortysomethings – he remains a vigorous performer with an affable stage presence, often addressing individual members of his audience (“Get this woman another drink!”) and even soliciting requests. And it doesn’t hurt that his catalogue boasts a handful of ageless classics. Snicker if you must, but there’s no denying the hooks of arena-sized anthems like “Summer of ’69” and “Cuts Like a Knife.”
That said, those songs cry out for the soaring solos that make them whole. Watching Adams deliver a plaintive, unplugged set at an intimate venue like the Independent is an uncommon treat for fans whose irony-free appreciation of the man is unwavering, but for casual observers intent on reliving prom night while listening to “Heaven” – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” was conspicuously omitted – a little electric guitar would have gone a long way.
Personal Bias: Like the original "Dukes of Hazzard," Bryan Adams is, for me, a cherished relic from childhood. I am fully aware that he is neither hip nor artistically relevant, but I'll happily put my 20-year-old copy of "Reckless" up against anything by supposed rockers like My Chemical Romance or The Killers.
Random Detail: Adams is also an acclaimed photographer who has worked with musical luminaries including Mick Jagger, Morrissey and Amy Winehouse.
By the Way: Adams will return to California in August with his longtime back-up band, presumably for an electric set of bloozy anthems and cheesy power ballads.