If there was ever a show that could time warp you back to your youth, it was this one. Legions of fans, young and old, gathered at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre on Friday night to immerse themselves in the timeless music of legendary Canadian singer/songwriter, Bryan Adams. Currently on a world tour, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of his groundbreaking record, “Reckless”, Adams and his stellar band performed every track during the first part of the show…along with a few previously unreleased selections. One by one, the pages turned, reflecting the angst and fire present in these songs during the time they were written. Topics ranging from the plight and excitement of young love, the passion of music, to the lust and drive of following one’s dream, triggered a wash of emotional memories for many, including myself. It is why these songs remain in our hearts, and continue to speak to the hearts of new fans alike.
Bryan Adams’ solo career began in 1979, but it wasn’t until the release of his fourth album, “Reckless” (1984), that catapulted him to fame on a worldwide scale, with six mega-hit singles and accompanying videos, making it the first Canadian album to sell more than a million copies. All tracks were written with long-time collaborator, Jim Vallance, who joined forces with Adams during the early budding stages of his career, to form one of the most successful songwriting teams in music history. Songs brimming with catchy guitar riffs, unforgettable melodies, identifiable lyrics, and Adams’ signature raspy, cutting vocals, brought contemporary rock music to the forefront. On November 10, 2014, a 30th Anniversary Edition was released, which included re-mastered tracks, along with 7 previously unreleased songs, a Live At Hammersmith Odeon (1985) concert, a DVD entitled, “Reckless: The Movie”, and a Blu-ray edition of the original album. The Reckless 30th Anniversary Tour also began during the same month across the UK, followed by coast-to-coast Canadian dates which will end in Toronto on February 28th. The tour will continue through Scandinavia and eastern Europe throughout March, 2015.
Adams’ band is comprised of bassist Norm Fisher (2002-present), keyboardist Gary Breit (2002-present), drummer Mickey Curry (1983-present), and lead guitarist Keith Scott (1983-present). Due to the departure of former members, Tommy Mandel and Dave Taylor in 1998, the band temporarily toured as a 3-piece until 2002, with Adams on bass, and Scott pulling double-duty on both rhythm and lead guitar parts.
Tonight at Ottawa’s CTC, the stage was set with an impressive backdrop of three large screens. The middle and largest was emblazoned with Adams’ image from the Reckless album cover, whose facial expressions changed every minute or so…it was easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention. Finally, the house lights dimmed, and the band came charging out of the gate with the heavy rockin‘, “Reckless”. Oddly enough, this title track was one of several songs written at the time that never made it onto the original album, but of course this was in the days when you could only fit so many songs onto a vinyl record.
More tracks from the album ensued, with “One Night Love Affair”, and “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancing”. Then came those instantly recognizable opening chords from “Run To You”, which produced a rush of excitement from the crowd. The song was flavoured with some sweet guitar harmonies during the solo between Adams and lead guitarist, Keith Scott, then dropped off the edge to a complete stop, triggering a swell of heavy applause. Adams’ distinctive rock vocals were just as hard-edged and crisp as the day these songs were recorded. I was amazed at his ever energetic projection, as he turned his head away from the mic to belt out some of the long sustains.
“Heaven” spurned on a sea of lighters waved high in the air, that turned the stadium into a star-studded sky, while the crowd sung the entire first verse. Scott took his usual lead and played a beautiful, haunting solo, after which the audience resumed lead vocals on the remaining choruses.
Adams donned his golden Gibson Memphis 1952 ES-295 to shake up some rockabilly madness on “Kids Wanna Rock”, with another brilliant solo by Scott. The dance-inducing, “It’s Only Love”, brought everyone out of their seats, and this time, I was not only again impressed by Scott’s guitar soloing and hotdog moves, but also his vocal ability on the higher harmony parts. Adams expressed how life-changing the experience was when Tina Turner laid down her searing vocals for that song.
“Somebody”, followed by “Summer Of ’69”, had the masses on their feet again, their voices ringing out every word. Scott churned out some driving licks with his gold top Gibson Les Paul, as he and Adams began running from one side of the stage to the other, fed by the energy of the crowd. Then, the house lights went down and the band finished off the Reckless segment of the show with a heartfelt, “Let Me Down Easy”, performed solo by Adams on his acoustic…a song he admitted he wrote for Stevie Nicks at the time.
The remainder of the set continued with a variety of songs plucked from some of his other 11 studio albums, beginning with his best selling single of all-time, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”. The building power of this song struck a chord with the entire crowd, and even though I’d heard this song hundreds of times, the enormity of emotional energy took me by surprise. The vibe was something you could feel and see on the faces of the audience…it was a moment near impossible to express.
“Cuts Like A Knife” (Cuts Like A Knife – 1983), packed another punch, with its pounding rock tempo, and the audience was in the pocket with their hand-clapping rhythm. Adams picked up his mic stand and turned it out toward the crowd, who chimed in enthusiastically on the “na-na” final choruses, accompanied by nothing but the steady drone of the bass drum. The rest of the band brought the song back into a thunderous ending, and the packed house went frantic with a standing ovation.
“Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” (Waking Up The Neighbors – 1991), induced a living wall of movement created by people swaying in their seats, and power ballad, “Please Forgive Me” (So Far So Good – 1993), offered a gorgeous piano melody, highlighting the brilliant keyboard work of Gary Breit. “18 Til I Die” (18 Til I Die – 1996), a full fledged rock song from the gut, reflected the energy Bryan Adams has harnassed his entire life. At 55 years of age, I could see the glint in his eye of a young teen practicing his guitar riffs endlessly.”
Several songs in the encore rounded out the night with selections from his latest effort, “Tracks Of My Years” (Sept. 2014). The album features some of his best-loved songs he grew up listening to on AM radio, and includes his newest original release, “She Knows Me”, another classic Adams/Vallance composition, which he performed. The band also played a rendition of the classic rockabilly number, “Seven Nights To Rock”, which had the crowd bopping and turned the CTC into a jukebox joint. The night came to a close with a bare bones version of “Straight From The Heart” (Cuts Like A Knife – 1983), with a solitary Adams on acoustic guitar and harmonica, and of course the audience’s voices the whole way through. He humbly thanked the crowd for sharing their voices in song, saying, “It’s about as close to magic as you’re ever gonna get…the incredible power of music brought us all together. Seeing it all fills my heart – thank you.”
The stadium lit up with the light generated from the masses of cellphones all the way up to the rafters, as he finished with a personal ode of thanks to our city in, “Ottawa Bound”, a single actually entitled, “Alberta Bound”, released in 2011. Adams attended Ottawa’s, Colonel By High School in his early teens, and would later be the very first to perform inside what is now our Canadian Tire Centre on the palladium’s opening night, January 15, 1996. I guess you could say it was like coming home for Bryan Adams, and Ottawa was only too happy to welcome him back once again with a warmth and appreciation…straight from our hearts.
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