“Kick down the barricades listen what the kids say…everywhere I go, the kids wanna rock.” The year was 1984 when this song was first released. Bryan Adams was on to something then and now, over 30 years later, not much has changed.
Saturday night an an unforgettable one for music lovers as the legendary rock artist/songwriter Bryan Adams’ Reckless 30 year anniversary tour made its stop at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Seats were packed way before Bryan was scheduled to hit the stage - anxious fans flooding the rows, coming from all over to see Adams perform at the very venue he later claimed on stage that he owes a huge deal of gratitude towards, for it was the late promoter Bill Graham who gave Adams his ‘first gig out here’ at Shoreline. I was lucky enough to be able to experience the show with fans who had traveled all the way from Ireland to see the show - an extremely passionate group of friends whom I learned met in high school and thirty years later, were still closer than ever and here they were, in California, miles away from home, making certain they did not miss the very songs that were present throughout those younger years of friendship, not daring to miss a chance at sweet nostalgia together.
It was a very surreal night - to take a moment just to talk about these fans and the hundreds more who remained faithful to Adams’ sound after all these years. Hundreds of eager fans singing along to every song, rushing towards the stage, dancing, screaming, never missing a beat. The gentleman in particular who I was next to was absolutely ecstatic to get to explain origins of the hit songs Adams’ performed, such as “Summer of 69” to a new-age fan such as myself who only discovered these songs through my own parents but never had the opportunity to be there as these fans had been throughout the past thirty years. Thanks again Shawn for the great talks - I never would’ve realized the truth behind the iconic lyrics of “Summer of 69” or the story about Keith Scott trading for those guitar strings that arguably started the wonderful collaboration between he and Bryan Adams that would later help shape rock ’n' roll for generations to come.
Bryan Adams kicked off his performance with remarkable energy. The opening track, “Reckless,” was a perfect way to declare his presence with the song’s strong guitar riffs and piercing vocals. Adams’ later joked that despite the song and album in celebration shared a name, the track itself was not a part of the Reckless album. He immediately showed the crowd his playful side as the band carried on with the show. The band was matched on stage with an amazing projection that ranged from lyrics of the song, real-time shots of the band or clips from the glory days, music videos and a range of other beautiful effects that synced seamlessly with the words Adams sung. Shots of a women’s shaped, sexy legs in stilettos could be seen as the screen split to show women dancing with the men performing “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancing.” But you didn’t need to see the projections on the screen to be able to tell that these men were all smiles as they ran from one side of the stage to the next, their performance having an incredibly airy tone to it as they exaggerated notes and playfully struck chords to the songs, plucking the strings in such a way that was causing even the band to chuckle.
The crowd went insane as the opening notes to “Run to You” could be heard. With the eruption from the crowd, Bryan Adams stopped singing himself as he raised his microphone stand and pointed it towards fans, giving them the stage as he stood simply nodding his head, grinning from ear to ear. ”I’m glad to be back,” he told us as he connected with the crowd, explaining the celebration of the thirty year anniversary of the Reckless album. ”Don’t ask me where those 30 years went, but man, they went.”
Adams slowed things down as disco balls dropped from the stage, creating an absolutely breathtaking lighting arrangement as the whole venue twinkled during the performance of “Heaven.” Beautiful black and white shots of space played behind them, achieving that softer vibe of the song, though it’s hard to describe this performance as ‘soft’ at all. It was almost difficult to hear Adams over the beautiful harmony of the fans singing along. After a bow taken by the whole band, you would think this placement in the set was means for a short break but it was obvious Adams and his band did not need one as they wasted no time to go from the beautiful, beloved ballad right into “Kids Wanna Rock.” Spotlights were placed on each member, showing us just how to rock as the song was extended with mind-blowing guitar solos. The three on strings - Bryan Adams, Keith Scott and Norm Fisher - joined together in a very playful pow-wow as they simply shredded on their guitars while drummer Mickey Curry gave us a once in a lifetime drum solo to end the song. It was in this moment that it was clear that while Bryan Adams may have claimed those last thirty years sure went by, with performances like this from the musicians, you’d think you maybe days had passed because there was absolutely no detriment from the obvious talent these men have.
We again see Adams’ humor as the screen on stage is lit up with a head shot, dubbed with a tiny mouth that sang in a very quick, high-pitched squeak that lead into, “It’s Only Love.” Again, we see these classic songs being extended, giving us live performances you can only dream about as Scott raises his guitar to play with his teeth, shredding with pure talent on these beautifully worn guitars. Adams screams out “that’s all!” as the song comes to an end and it’s back to the jokes as he calls himself Tina Turner and assures us all that the high-pitched voice was not himself but recollecting back to when he was twenty-four and got to perform that very song with miss Tina Turner.
The night carries on and Bryan Adams can be seen moving all over the stage, getting intimate with the crowd as he leans over for photographs, giving the biggest grins but not missing a line in the songs. Things slow down for just a second again to play a song that Adams joked was “forgotten” and put on the Reckless album but “no one gave two shits” about it; how anyone could not care about "Ain’t Gonna Cry” is beyond me. The band performed with such energy, with the camera on Adams, special effects showing tears streaming up towards his face as he and Scott gave us their best cry-faces. Scott had the camera chasing him as he danced around stage before laying on his back, performing with his legs up in the air, kicking in a mock-tantrum until he ended the song, with Adams’ leaning the microphone stand just over Scott’s face who gave us his best drawn out screaming wail.
“Summer of 69” is placed perfectly in the middle of his set, bleeding right into a single spotlight illuminated Bryan Adams as he explained his next choice on the set list - talking about his love for Stevie Nicks and the song he wrote for her and the one problem being he didn’t know= Stevie Nicks so she never heard the song until (presumably) Roger Daltrey did, in Adams’ words, an amazing cover of it. With this beautiful track, there was an obvious transition in the tone as Adams announced that concluded the portion of the show focused on playing tracks from Reckless to highlighting Adams’ picks from his other thirteen albums.
There was no mistaking the careful selection and placement of the songs to follow. The second half of the show began with “(Everything I Do) I Do it For You” as the stage became gorgeously lit and the talent of keyboardist, Gary Breit, was displayed. The crowd was speckled with flashlights from smartphones and the old school method - lighters - alike as Adams sung his heart out, sounding just as amazing as when the song was first recorded. Next came Adams’ search through the crowd for “a wild woman who can dance.” Bryan scanned the crowd, watching the eager women show off what their mamas gave them, complimenting each section with comments made to himself through the microphone. “Not bad, not bad,” he murmured as he looked from left to right, declaring that it would be a tough decision. He joked on whether to pick what was behind curtain A or curtain B before making one fan’s dreams come true and choosing her to be the poster woman for his next performance. Adams played “If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good” with the cameras focused in on the dancing woman, an intimate performance as he kept his eyes on her. “Let the lady have the show,” he called out to a security guard in the shot as Bryan gave out a sexy purr, even further joking to tell another male fan who had stepped into frame, “hey buddy, get the heck out of there” so that the crowd could admire the woman’s dance moves. The song ended on the best note - literally, as Adams sang the word “booty” in rhythm to the song.
Another switch-out of one of Adams’ four guitars and the night continued on. “You know you’ve made it as an artist when…” he hooks us in for this story, leading up to the next song, “…you go to a restaurant and the mariachi band is playing your song. Chips and guacamole and your own music being sung to you,” Adam jokes in high spirits leading to the beautiful acoustic performance of “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.” The energy is not at all lost during the twenty-one song setlist as Bryan Adams and his band finish off with “18 till I Die” and “Cuts Like a Knife” as they run around the stage, screaming into the microphones as the crowd screams at them. It was this playful interaction that was present throughout the entire show that personally made it obvious why this was a packed show. There’s no arguing that Bryan Adams helped define rock ’n’ roll, but this amazing energy, his strong vocals and his entire stage presence has not at all been lost during the years we’ve been lucky enough as fans to get to listen to his music.
The show was wrapped up with Adams giving thanks to his band members - taking the time to introduce, who he claims to be his best friend, Keith Scott as the man we knew and wanted to take home with us… complete with the friendly nipple pinching! The entire venue goes black and Adams leaves us in suspense for only moments before coming back on stage for their encore with an Eddie Cochran cover of “C’mon Everybody.” The band exits the stage once more and leaves Adams in the center. Just a man and his acoustic guitar. He finished the night off with an absolutely mesmerizing performance of “She Knows Me” and brought out his harmonica for “Straight from the Heart.” It was these two songs that signified the night for me. A perfect wrap up for one hell of a show. Such an intimate, raw performance with no need for gimmicks, special effects, autotune or fancy instruments. Just Adams, six strings and a harmonica. It was absolutely beautiful and restored my faith in rock ’n’ roll.
If you have not been lucky enough to see this man perform - please do yourself a favor and get to a show as quick as you can. It’s life changing and that itself is a complete understatement.
Photos and words by Brieanna Heinrichs