“Man,” Bryan Adams quips after he brings the house down at the FlyDSA Arena with a cinematic, stadium-sized rendition of Summer of ’69. “If I’d have known you were going to sing like that, I’d have played it earlier.”
Genial guffaws abound, and not for the first time tonight either. Almost from the word go, the warmly unassuming Canadian rocker and his band have Sheffield eating out of the palm of his hand across a two-hour-plus performance that effectively runs the gamut across the length and breadth of his whole career, a crowd-pleasing romp through almost four decades of hits. Back for his fifth full British tour in just over half a decade, the 59-year-old, gracefully matured into middle-age, is playing behind his fourteenth studio outing Shine a Light, which has only hit shelves for the first time in the hours before the show.
“This is our second gig today and we’re absolutely fucking frazzled,” he laughs, after revealing he was up in the wee hours for a BBC Radio 2 session. An early start doesn’t appear to have dented his spirit though, nor his arsenal of copper-bottomed crackers; it’s virtually impossible to go more than two songs without being hit by one of his many earworms.
Such tunes fall into two distinct eras of note, the Adams of eighties big-riff gumption and the Bryan of nineties soft-ballad schmaltz. He splits them pretty much down the middle too in terms of output, leaning heavily on the chunkier anthemics of Can’t Stop This Thing We Started, Run to You and Heaven early on in a rather frontloaded assault of big rock numbers, punctured only by the Ed Sheeran-penned title track of his new LP. A mid-set acoustic break, inclusive of a dedication to songwriter and “Sheffield lad” Eliot Kennedy who penned When You’re Gone, leads into big weepies (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? and Please Forgive Me.
Such scheduling leads to something of a lull compared to the muscular thrills of the opening hour, but there’s never any sense of discord – and when Adams sees out proceedings with a delicate, stripped back encore that reaches back in time to the rarely played Lonely Nights alongside All for Love, enough phone lights illuminate several thousand happy faces to guarantee there’s no short-changing here.