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Bryan Adams brings a Summer of 69 to Belfast

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Review by Ivor Whitten for MPM

On a beautiful sunny evening, the long queue outside the SSE Belfast notified everyone that the arena was playing host to the one and only Groover from Vancouver, Mr Bryan Adams.

With a capacity of around 10,000 it was easy to see that there was close to that and with an astonishing mix of ages and backgrounds. What a massive vote of confidence for such an amazing rocker and proved he continues to have a huge unifying power. Without a support act this gig was going to be Bryan and Bryan alone, which judging by everyone’s faces that was absolutely fine by them.

The massive video screen on the stage had the cover of ‘So Happy It Hurts’ album was playing, looking like a simple picture but cleverly it was a video which every so often had something happen like a marching band or a mechanic working on the car.

Then the lights went down to a wonderfully witty voice over from none other than John Cleese who introduced Bryan and to rapturous applause and roars of approval Bryan blasts in with ‘Kick Ass’ before hitting home with ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’. The crowd as one went mad with a palpable love for the experience of seeing Bryan live. And in turn the energy he fills the stage with just increases the responses from everyone there. There is no one quiet.

Next came ‘Run to You’, another pure Adams belter which fills the arena with pure joy, creating an experience that everyone there will remember for a long time. ‘Shine a Light’ ‘Heaven’ and ‘Go Down Rockin’’ keeps the enthusiastic energy flowing without any sign of stopping.

Bryan is in masterful form in Belfast delivering an incredible performance and he is only a few songs in already. The enthusiasm of the packed arena is certainly contagious and provides a pure joy flowing all the way around. The gig may be a solid two and a half hours but time was going to fly by very fast.

‘It’s Only Love’, ‘On the Road’ and ‘You Belong to Me’ continues the rocking out as the whole of the SSE Arena moved, stomped cheered and sang along. During ‘It’s Only Love’ the video camera came out and random audience members found themselves dancing to rockabilly up on the massive screen behind the band, doubling their efforts as soon as they saw themselves up on the screen.

‘I’ve Been Looking for You’ ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You’ and ‘Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?’ hammered home the mix of ballad and rock feel that is signature of Bryan Adams. Each one delivered with such emotion and incredible vocals. Bryan may have been in the music business since 1975 but his vocal power has not lost any edge at all. The power he exudes is unmistakable and just sounds immense.

Next was ‘Here I Am’ and ‘When You’re Gone’ before an extraordinary rendition of ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You’. The whole arena as one could not stop dancing, jumping, waving, singing and screaming in concert. Bryan seemed to do nothing else but feed of this energy as he just lapped it up to produce a superb performance with ‘Back to You’, and ‘Not Guilty’.

Then a real rock out came with ‘18 til I Die’ and a roof lifting performance of ‘Summer of ’69’ as Bryan went quiet for the first few lines and the audience, as one, did all the heavy lifting. It was spinetingling seeing almost 10,000 people singing as one and they did not stop when Bryan kicked in.

There was a bit of slow down and opportunity for the audience to influence the setlist as Bryan took a few requests which included ‘Kids wanna rock’, ‘Remember’, Always have, always will’, and ‘when you love someone’.

Then the main set finished with ‘Cuts like a Knife’ to a rapturous applause and deafening cheering as Bryan and his band took a bow and left the stage. Just like an MCU movie no one moved thinking that it wasn’t quite over. And as chants of ‘we want more’ lifted the foof Bryan and his band did indeed come back on to a euphoric explosion of joy.

They blasted out ‘So Happy It Hurts’ before hitting home ‘Somebody’ and the beautiful ‘These Are the Moments That Make Up My Life’. With that the band left the stage to allow Bryan to do a complete solo performance with just his guitar and a harmonica. He jokingly quipped “So you’re still here, maybe the harmonica will make you leave”. And to an audience in Belfast he belted out a great version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, which was well received as it is a well known song from the repertoire of Dublin’s inimitable Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy. Every word sang by Bryan was mirrored with a power of 10,000 voices as well. Then he sang ‘Straight From the Heart’ before asking everyone to shine a light using their phones as he finished the evening with ‘All for Love’. All the while a wonderful addition to the mix was a drone flown inflatable car flying around the arena.

With that he thanked everyone for coming and left the stage as everyone who had been in the seated areas gave him a standing ovation and the applause filled the whole of the arena.

The whole show was a smorgasbord of incredible guitar-driven rock anthems and ballads that kept the tempo going. It is no exaggeration to say the set was filled with songs that have been etched in people’s minds through simple osmosis over the decades. Everyone knows at least one Bryan Adams song, whether or not they even realise it was a Bryan Adams song.

Overall, it was a masterful education in delivering a classic rock concert in an arena setting. Bryan and his fantastically tight band never set a step wrong. The setup, delivery and consummate performance, responding to the audience and giving them what they wanted created a unique experience that just left everyone filled with joy and smiles from ear to ear. Bryan and his group can honestly walk away satisfied they put on a great performance and could not have done any more. They gave their all and it showed.

Bryan Adams is someone everyone knows about and whether or not he is at the top of your music list, he is a performer you cannot miss live. He is continuing his tour through to July with concerts in the UK before heading onto Europe. See where he is playing at https://www.bryanadams.com/tours/

Honestly, do yourself a major favour and get along to see him. You won’t regret it.

Photography by MPM

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