The first words I ever heard from the mouth of Bryan Adams was when he shouted, “My name is Bryan Adams and I don’t know who the f*** you are either!”
It was the summer of 1984; the location was the Melbourne Showgrounds; the event sponsor was EON FM; and it was the biggest event of that year: the final date of The Police farewell tour. And in those days farewell tours really meant farewell, not until-my-accountant-tells-me-the-finances-are-looking-a-bit-low-and-you-need-to-go-out-on-yet-another-farewell-tour (yes, I’m looking at you KISS).
I may or may not have been wearing bright blue acid wash jeans, but I definitely had a puffed out perm, channelling Pat Benatar from the Love Is A Battlefield video. I know because I remember my rake comb snapping in the crush of the crowd.
It was hot and everyone had been standing in the blazing heat for hours, lining up to secure a spot where they might be able to identify the speck on the stage as being Sting.
Australian Crawl had played a set, but no one was particularly interested in the next act, a minor Canadian rocker, even if his biggest hit to date, Cuts Like a Knife, did sound vaguely familiar.
Then suddenly, this short, blonde kid leapt onto stage, spouting expletives and pumping out high-energy rock, that for my young teenaged self was at the same time both shocking and wildly exciting.
This Bryan Adams guy was B. A. D — and we loved it. Armed with a guitar and a pretty solid voice (used occasionally for singing, but a lot of the time for cursing and cracking jokes) he had the entire showgrounds on their feet.
It was true, before that summer of ’84, no one really knew who Bryan Adams was, and neither did the rest of the world, until a year later when he shot to international stardom with the album Reckless and the singles Run To You and Summer of ’69.
Yet, even though the music I heard on the radio was the same rock I remembered, I also detected the ever-so-faint whiff of vanilla.
Then came the big ballads — and it was all over for me.
In the 90s, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, Heaven, and All For Love were huge ballads and massive worldwide hits, but are you kidding me?
Where was the foul mouthed, anti-establishment rocker, rejecting the system and proudly wearing his lack of commercial success as a badge of honour? Belting out soft rock anthems for mediocre popular movies and hanging with the MTV crowd, that’s where.
Yet, judging by the tattooed, very rock and roll crowd flocking to the Rod Laver Arena, in Melbourne on Thursday night, I got the feeling that there were several thousand people at least who still considered Bryan Adams to be a rock god.
Adams took to the stage to the sound of heavy guitar and a “Hi, my name’s Bryan!” — strikingly similar to the greeting I remember from all those years ago, but minus the expletives. In fact, the language of this concert was entirely G-rated.
The messages projected on the huge screen throughout the gig were ones preaching peace, tolerance and a better world. And apparently for every ticket sold a tree is going to be planted. Now, that was unexpected.
There was no wild running around the stage (but I think we can give him a pass on this one, the guy turns 60 this year), but Adams belted out hit after hit with a voice that shows no sign of letting up and a surprising originality.
Adams combined massive and seemingly endless guitar duets with lead guitarist Keith Scott, with unashamedly rockabilly numbers, and the occasional acoustic interpretation, including a beautiful rendition of When You’re Gone (you know, that pop duet he did with Scary Spice?).
And it was fun. At one point Adams dared the audience to do their “silliest dance”, and roving cameras beamed the most notable offerings onto the screen. Adams looked as though he was having a ball; his audience certainly were.
The Bryans Adams we saw last night was neither the angry young rocker, nor the 90s white bread singer of soft-rock ballads.
Maybe the truth is that no one — not even Bryan Adams — is just one thing. One minute he’s a hard-core rocker, the next he’s composing the music and lyrics for Pretty Woman The Musical.
He’s had 15 Grammy nominations, but is also an award-winning photographer. He’s performed at an Olympic opening ceremony, but he is also an outspoken vegan and has held charity performances in India and Nepal.
His Melbourne concert seemed to authentically capture the eclectic range of the artist.