This year’s Bluesfest was kicked off with an awesome show by Canadian icon Bryan Adams.
A no-nonsense rocker, Adams stood in the middle of the stage in his trademark black t-shirt and delivered hit after hit. His voice still sounds as good as it ever did, and his classic songs like “Somebody” and “Summer of ‘69” have definitely stood the test of time.
The Kingston-born singer-songwriter occasionally reminisced about growing up in Ottawa, noting that he can’t return to the capital without running into someone he went to school with (on Thursday, it was a cop directing traffic outside the venue). He also recalled buying one of his first electric guitars at a Bank Street pawn shop.
“I still have that sucker today!” he said of the guitar, eliciting cheers.
Opening with his rockin’ new single “Ultimate Love,” he followed up with 1991 hit “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and chilly infidelity confession “Run to You,” the audience singing along to both.
Adams then switched to a more recent single, rock ‘n’ roll manifesto “Go Down Rockin,” followed by “Heaven,” a quintessential eighties power ballad that still feels fresh. Up next was the triumphant “It’s Only Love,” which sounded great even without his original duet partner Tina Turner.
He succeeded in getting the crowd dancing the “rockabilly” jam “You Belong to Me” (a personal favourite of mine). In another highlight, he brought a group of ladies from the audience onstage to dance along to his deliciously sleazy blues number “If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good.”
“You ask for one hot girl, you get six – I guess that’s Ottawa for you,” he mused.
After closing with megahit “Cuts Like a Knife,” the band returned for a rowdy performance of “18 ‘Til I Die,” followed by a folkish acoustic arrangement of “I’m Ready.” They closed with “Brand New Day,” another single from 2015’s Get Up.
At that point, most in the audience assumed that the show was over; as the crowd filtered out, Adams returned with a lively and completely unexpected cover of punk standard “I Fought the Law.”
This surprise second encore also featured an out-of-left-field rendition of Celtic folk song “Whiskey in the Jar” and an emotional, stripped down version of “Straight from the Heart.” If the bulk of the show was a greatest hits record, this encore was a rarities disk – a musician having fun with whoever wanted to stick around. It was the best part of an already great night.
Performer: Bryan Adams
Venue: Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats
Date: June 5/2018