Last Night: Bryan Adams at the Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts
December 2, 2008
Notes by Janine Kahn
Photos by Jenn "Hiku" Wong
Better than: Listening to the same songs on some mellow FM station on that long LA-to-SF drive.
I don't want to think about the number of children that were probably conceived with Bryan Adams crooning in the background, but my mind's in the gutter thanks to Adams himself (who informed us that "Summer of '69" is really, truly about the sexual position staple and not a time period, as most would believe) and the hundreds of couples who sat inside the Palace of Fine Arts' thousand-seater theater with their arms around each other, eyes glazed, post-concert plans probably going in the direction I think they're going.
Adams is pushing 50, but the soft-rocker doesn't look a day over 30 in his jeans and button-down shirt under the house lights, which probably helps cement his image as cheesy romance personified. What I'm surprised by is his sense of humor, which he whips out at every moment he's not belting bleeding heart lyrics into the mic. (This surprise is spawned from reading several interviews in which the man seems a tad too snarky, suspicious and guarded.)
"Is it just me or does it sound like I'm singing into a pillow? It feels like I'm singing into a sock," he tells the crowd after wrapping up his first song, "Tonight we have the stars," from his newest album, "11." The song's sweet and bright, though unfamiliar to these ears, but almost any Adams song is an easy listen with its predictable stanza-chorus-stanza structure.
As the night goes on and Adams switches from one song written for a motion picture to the next, one begins to see that the man would probably go bonkers without said sense of humor. He's been asked to put pieces together for the strangest scenes - "Here I am," written for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, was for a moment in which the animated horse was being born, and bubblegum hit "Heaven" was actually composed for a male stripping scene in A Night in Heaven. (Which cheered up a gay member of the audience who confessed to Adams in a back-and-forth during the show that "Heaven" was the song that tipped him out of the hetero vat and into the homo pool. P.S. His date was pretty cute.)
Alas, the one movie theme my friend and I wanted to hear, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was not on the menu. Perhaps Adams is just plain sick of it? That didn't occur to me till I read Ross Drake's All Shook Down review from May, in which the song was also omitted and the line-up was almost identical. "Run To You," "It's Only Love," and "Cuts Like a Knife" were all in attendance.
Overall, the show was seamless and pretty entertaining, most likely because Adams has performed many of the same hits (and presumably, one-liners) for years. His complaints about the sound system were valid, though. His guitar, harmonica and back-up pianist sounded great, but the mic seemed to be swallowing his voice on occasion. You have to hand it to the man, his frustrations with the setup didn't stop him from coming back for three encores, which included "Somebody" and "Have you ever really loved a woman?"
Personal Bias: I'm almost as embarrassed to tell folks I liked this show as I would be telling them I sing duets from Les Miserables to myself in the shower.
Random Detail: One blonde woman, who sat front and center, mouthed the lyrics to every single song in the set and rocked out shamelessly while others merely bobbed their heads in their seats. She was almost as fun to watch as Adams was.
By the Way: Parking rocks at the Palace of Fine Arts.