- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Not even record-setting nighttime heat could keep Bryan Adams and his band from rocking an appreciative — and thoroughly sweating — crowd at the Wolf Trap Filene Center for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia, Friday evening.

The Canadian singer began a spirited evening with “Do What You Gotta Do” from his most recent album, “Get Up,” before transitioning into the hit “Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started” from his smash 1991 album “Waking Up the Neighbours.”

The concert reached an early crescendo with the love song “Heaven,” with Mr. Adams turning the mic stand toward the crowd, who dutifully — and passionately — sang the lyrics of the tune for him.

Mr. Adams‘ lead guitarist, Keith Scott, proved why he occupies a position mere steps from his bandleader by shredding killer lead and solo work on “Kids Wanna Rock” and “It’s Only Love.” With unseasonably high nighttime temperatures topping out near 90, Mr. Scott’s arms dripped buckets of sweat as his fingers thrashed out the melody on “It’s Only Love,” which Mr. Adams sang as a duet with Tina Turner on the original recording.

Mr. Adams‘ band, all dressed alike in the same jeans-and-white-shirt combo in which the singer self-attired, kept the energy up throughout the two-plus-hour evening, with Mickey Curry on percussion, the versatile Gary Breit on keys and pianos and Norm Fisher on bass all adding, by turns, to the musical elixir of the sweaty evening.

If there’s one thing Mr. Adams is certainly known for, it’s his stratospheric tenor voice; his albums are thoroughly invigorated by the overdubbing of himself on harmonies, but curiously, his band, despite contributing backup vocals, never achieved such harmonic transcendence. It’s a small quibble, but for a vocalist reviewer, one that was noticeable.

The concert’s midpoint was heightened thanks to hits “Summer of ‘69,” with the crowd on its feet the entire time, and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” used in the film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Mr. Adams pointed to Mr. Breit to continue the instrumental coda, which the band leaned into for an extended few extra moments.

Switching gears, Mr. Adams said he was seeking out a “special” lady from the audience. After several rejections, with Mr. Adams saying no as stage cameras focused on several enthusiastically waving women in the crowd, he settled on a woman in the first third of the audience to be his muse for the bluesy riff “If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good.” As Mr. Adams launched into the rather naughty tune, the woman, standing on her seat, began gyrating her hips and posterior suggestively, with her exploits blown up on the venue’s screens for all to behold. A Wolf Trap staffer attempted to tell the woman to step down from her chair during the twerk, but the staffer was resoundingly booed by the audience, and she slunk away.

The hoofer continued her routine, even teasingly lifting her shirt to reveal her midriff — much to the audience’s delight — and going the distance of the song. She received a standing ovation from the audience, with Mr. Adams calling her “the best ever” — perhaps the same salutation he gives nightly during the routine — and sending her a goodie bag full of merch in salute to her moves.

In a somewhat strange digression, Mr. Adams introduced the ballad “I’ll Always Be Right There” with a perhaps-apocryphal tale of being asked to write the song for “a huge film,” without even hinting as to what that movie might be. Mr. Adams offered less-than-cryptic clues, and seemed to be enjoying the tease, with Mr. Scott chuckling next to him as Mr. Adams even threatened to retread the entire anecdote from the top. Finally tiring of his ruse, Mr. Adams and Mr. Scott dueted on acoustic guitars on the love song.

This was followed by another of Mr. Adams‘ quieter songs, “Please Forgive Me,” before launching into a rousing salvo of “Cuts Like a Knife,” “18 ‘till I Die” and “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You” before he and the band took their bows.

Returning for the encore, Mr. Adams and his troubadours trotted out “Brand New Day” from “Get Up” before a mini-set of covers of Eddie Cochran (“C’mon Everybody”) and Elvis Presley (“All Shook Up”).

The backup musicians left the stage, and Mr. Adams took center spotlight, alone, with his acoustic guitar for “She Knows Me,” followed by “Straight From the Heart,” the latter a song Mr. Adams wrote when he was just 18 — “two or three years ago,” its composer jested. (Mr. Adams is 56.)

Mr. Adams concluded the evening with a solo acoustic version of “All for Love,” the hit featured on the soundtrack of the 1993 film version of “The Three Musketeers,” which he recorded as a trio alongside Rod Stewart and Sting. Mr. Adams then saluted his fans goodnight and trotted off into the wings.

The Wolf Trap crowd proved to be one of the most energetic in memory, with the oppressive heat showcasing that neither rock ‘n’ roll performers or their fans are to be daunted by the communal experience of music on a balmy late-summer’s eve.

Eric Althoff is Entertainment Editor for The Washington Times.


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