The early evening of the 29th November could be considered a time when Nottingham decided to go a little bit berserk. I had been in the centre of the city for most of the afternoon trying to do a bit of my Christmas shopping. As I set about trying to emerge from the Victoria centre to meet my friend ahead of that night’s gig, I was almost stampeded by the most bizarre combination of people legging it into the Victoria centre as the heavens outside had decided to unleash a flood of epic proportions on our fair city. Soon the Victoria centre was jam packed with a combination of Nottingham Forest fans (ahead of their league game against Leeds that night), and a huge selection of people of all ages wearing Bryan Adams t-shirts. In this moment, two genuinely massive Nottingham events coincided in the strangest of fashions. Whilst Forest proceeded to keep up the bizarre evening with a remarkable implosion at the hands of Leeds, Bryan Adams proceeded to calm the waters and give a master class in how to do arena rock.
As I eventually made it to the Capital FM arena, the first thing that struck me was the combination of people at the gig. There was a huge selection of ages, from students to pensioners. There were groups of middle aged couples, some work mates, and at the front, the dedicated Bryan Adams fans who boasted about this being their 100 or 200th time seeing the Canadian. Bryan Adams emerged as the huge screen behind him (I mean, really massive) kicked in with some artwork from his seminal triple-platinum album ‘Waking up the Neighbours’ and launched into ‘House Arrest’ from the album which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. Adams proceeded to greet the audience and announce that they were going to be playing an extra long gig, drawing heavily from ‘Waking up the Neighbours’, receiving a huge cheer from audience for this.
What followed was an education in how to do crowd-pleasing arena rock; Adams played all of the greatest hits from an enviable back catalogue that has 30 years worth of gems within it. Additionally, early on in the set the audience were still treated to mega hits like ‘Thought I’d died and gone to Heaven’ and ’18 till I die’; and nigh on every word of every song was bellowed back to him by the audience.
The Canadian then launched into ‘Summer of ‘69’ to get the crowd really moving, before a bizarre yet humorous interlude of ‘Touch the Hand’ with his backing band providing percussion on the pots and pans. After this came what much of the audience had been waiting for, Adams’ most successful song that was likely to be no. 1 when about half the students at the University were born – the sixteen week chart topping ‘(Everything I do) I do it for you’. The spotlight beamed down on Bryan for the power ballad: couples embraced, voices bellowed, and then the lasers ignited the arena. Adams followed this up with the superb ‘Cuts like a Knife’, to complete this foot stamping middle set.
The rest of the set continued how it began: classic songs from the Bryan Adams back catalogue with a big sound for the big arena, including classics such as ‘Heaven’ and ‘There will never be another tonight’. All of this backed by his enthusiastic backing band, including the tireless Keith Scott adding remarkable guitar solos on occasions. By the end, none of Bryan Adams’ classics were missing and there was one very satisfied audience. If one had to pick at straws for faults they would only be the same faults as there are with all arena rock – it felt impersonal and too big for its own good. However these were minor flaws and the music on show seemed made for venues like this.
As Bryan Adams ended his two and a half hour, twenty five song set, there was barely a soul in the audience left disappointed. You would struggle to find a member of the many thousand strong audience who hadn’t heard every song they wanted to and been dazzled by the show that they had been given. Adams also seemed to be satisfied at the end of the gig, earnestly thanking the audience. This set ticked all the boxes: happy audience, happy musicians, all the best songs, huge stage show – basically this was arena rock done exactly how arena rock should be done and for that I really do commend the man.
…….. Liam has been listening to Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat ………