Name a song, he played it.
Bryan Adams did not disappoint fans at his long awaited Bare Bones Tour, which stopped at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Tuesday.
The celebrated Canadian rocker tore a few pages out of his three-decade, 16-album song book, playing hit after hit in a stripped-down acoustic performance to a full auditorium.
“It’s great to be here,” the 54-year-old said, addressing the fact that he had never played in the intimate 750-seat theatre before. “But at my age, it’s great to be anywhere.”
Donned in a Dickensian top hat, which he removed in gentlemanly fashion, Adams launched into his 1984 hit Run to You, played just as effectively on acoustic guitar as the original electric version.
The antithesis of an aging rocker, his voice was spot on. His famous rasp sounded as clear as his Reckless days 30 years before, and it did not waver from start to finish two hours later.
Adams also emulated Neil Young, playing his acoustic guitar and harmonica on songs such as Back to You, also introducing his “band,” pianist Gary Breit, an enigmatic performer himself.
Addressing the audience by the fourth song, Adams did what most Canadians do to break the ice, he spoke about the weather.
He pointed out a headline he had read in Winnipeg, where he started the western leg of the tour, on how it is currently colder there than Mars. He also spoke about the idea for the tour, named after his 2010 album, Bare Bones.
“We wanted to take the songs from 30 years ago and present them in their smallest format… We’ll do as many songs as I can remember,” he said before asking Breit to help him figure out the solo to Here I Am.
Breit was especially effective in fleshing out Adams’ love ballads that had a few in the estrogen-heavy crowd swooning.
Together they created an intimate setting for Here I Am, Heaven, I Finally Found Someone (originally recorded with Barbra Streisand), and All for Love, the latter where Adams teased the audience when he introduced Rod Stewart and Sting to no avail.
A lothario without really trying, Adams dedicated the song to “Kelly and her husband,” out in the audience, after Kelly volunteered to dance to the sexy, blues jam, If Ya Wanna Be Bad (Ya Gotta Be Good).
From there on, Adams had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Sitting spitting distance away, as he put it, the crowd filled in whenever Adams encouraged a hand clap or back-up singer. Whether tapping on his microphone to set the beat or leaving a gap in the chorus, the audience followed his every move, joining in harmoniously to This Time, Can’t Stop this Thing We Started and Summer of ‘69, where after, Adams tossed his guitar pick to a kid in the front row. It’s likely framed now.
The same reaction came from Cuts Like a Knife, which Adams introduced as one of the songs he wrote with Jim Vallance that launched him out of small sh***y clubs into bigger sh***y clubs.”
A request from the audience for 18 Til I Die was met with an enthusiastic response from the ageless rocker.
Adams was especially charming when waxing nostalgic about his youth; the time he urged his mom to get out of the small Burnaby apartment the family shared when he was starting out in music, going on to rent a $400 house in Kitsilano after the owner recognized Adams from playing a showcase with him at the CBC.
He also spoke about buying his first record, by Janis Joplin, while living in Portugal where his army officer father was stationed, before launching into Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make it Through the Night, a cover that suited his voice.
Then there was the song When You Love Someone, which helped Adams connect with Kenny Rogers, who covered it, but unfortunately not with Sandra Bullock, who starred in the film Hope Floats, where it was featured.
And in another twist of fate, one of the songs Adams performed during his five-song encore, Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman, from the film Don Juan De Marco, originally featured flamenco guitar player Paco De Lucia.
De Lucia sadly died Wednesday morning of a heart attack. But the song lives on.
Ending the night with The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me is You, Somebody and his first hit, Straight From the Heart, written when he was just 18, Adams showed he has never left the building, even as he graciously placed his top hat back on his head, and said his good byes.
His music will live on.