in performance: bryan adams

bryan adams last night the opera house. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

bryan adams last night the opera house. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

Early into his sold out performance last night at the Opera House, Bryan Adams determined the small eternity that had transpired since his last Lexington concert – a period just shy of 26 years, to be exact – was full of “a lot of white lines down the highway and a lot of songs to catch up on.”

And so, for two full hours, the Canadian rocker got his Central Kentucky fans up to speed with a loose fitting and immensely audience friendly acoustic concert that covered nearly three decades worth of hits, material from nine of his eleven studio albums and, of course, multiple scoops of sweetly sentimental movie ballads.

Anyone suspecting that the rockier fare from the Adams catalog might not translate in the unplugged setting should have been in their seats for a show opening revision of what arguably remains his best hit, 1984’s Run to You. The tune’s wintry arpeggios certainly suited an evening where outside temps dipped to near zero. But the acoustic alteration also worked because Adams’ scratchy vocals still maintained a youthful edge and confidence.

Similarly, 1996’s The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me is You and a modified version of his 1985 hit with Tina Turner It’s Only Love emphasized that most elemental device of pop songsmiths: the power chord. Even within sparse acoustic frameworks, the melodic strength of Adams’ most electric fare was still potent.

Of course, the singer didn’t disappoint those who came to hear the movie ballads. Just as the rockier material possessed ample drive in the acoustic presentation, the lighter fare lost none of its overt and unapologetic sentimentality.

Some of those tunes, such as When You Love Someone, possessed surprisingly honest warmth. Featured in the 1998 Sandra Bullock film Hope Floats, When You Love Someone contrasted favorably to the more popular (and vastly more sugary) All For Love, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman and (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, all of which secured spots late into the performance. When You Love Someone proved the more efficiently emotive acoustic time piece.

The concert was billed as a strictly solo affair. But Adams happily cheated by inviting along keyboardist Gary Bright, who stuck exclusively to grand piano just as Adams employed only 6-string acoustic guitar. Aside from looking eerily like Adams (same haircut, same clothes… it was pretty creepy, at first), Bright nicely orchestrated the movie tunes, punctuated a few rockier delights (including 1987’s Heat of the Night) and crisply complimented two works that summoned the spirit of Ray Charles: a little known blues reverie called The Right Place (Adams commented he had wanted to pitch the song to the soul maestro but never did) and a cover of  Seven Spanish Angels (cut as a duet by Charles and Willie Nelson in 1986).

Oddly enough, the show highlight was a quietly plaintive tune from Adams’ 2008 album 11 called Walk On By. There, the sentimentality was capped and the rock ‘n’ roll elements were corked. All that remained was quiet, unaccompanied pop that was as stately as it was elegiac.

After that song, Adams’ mission statement for the evening was complete. As far his music went, Lexington was now officially caught up.

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