Review by Eamon O'Neill. (via Mayo.ie)
For any other artist, this review might begin ‘making a rare visit to the west of Ireland’,but for Bryan Adams that simply wouldn’t be true. Following on from his headline appearance just ten miles down the road at the Westport Festival less than three months ago, today the Canadian superstar was back in the Co. Mayo, bringing his ‘Bare Bones’ show to the Royal Theatre in Castlebar. Although the number of gigs in this part of the country has pleasingly been steadily on the increase in recent years, for some it’s a treat not to have to travel to the more usual Belfast and Dublin venues on the other side of the country to see an artist of this calibre.
The ‘Bare Bones’ tour has seen Adams going back to basics. He first stripped things right back in 1997, with the release of his MTV Unplugged album, an acoustic album that featured a full band, tonight he took the concept even further. Without fanfare, a lone Adams with acoustic guitar in hand strolled on stage with a smile, and launched straight into ‘Run To You’. Lit by a single spotlight, it’s one man, one guitar, one voice. And what a voice he has. With no big production or band to hide behind, many a singer would falter, but Adams’ familiar gravelly tones soar, as the crowd were captivated from the off.
He followed it up with ‘It’s Only Love’ before being joined by Gary Breit on piano. “This is the band” he comically told the crowd. Breit’s contribution bolstered the songs that followed, and allowed Adams to show off his not inconsiderable guitar skills. Breit too is no slouch, as demonstrated on ‘When You Love Someone’ and later, on ‘Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman’.
The show was an intimate affair, with minimal lighting and sparse staging. Adams’ stage banter too brought a closeness to the occasion, and when he spotted one punter leaving for ‘a refill’, he asked “do you want me to wait for you?”.It was clear that the crowd were on his side, providing percussive hand-claps on cue. Not only that, but they were in fine singing voice as well. Also it was genuinely shocking to hear the dominating female voices in the crowd lending their neigh on note perfect tones to ‘Finally Found Someone’ and ubiquitous 1990’s number one ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’.
It was not all sentimental though, as the pace picked up with a spirited ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ complete with disco lighting. Adams is of course a pro, and the tempo of the show could not be faulted as rocker followed ballad followed anthem. Picking out the ‘wildest woman’ in the audience to dance during ‘If Ya Wanna Be Bad - Ya Gotta Be Good’ he even convincingly tackled blues.
He was clearly having fun, pulling out tracks from every period of his career, but of course there are songs that he simply has to play, and when he did the place predictably went crazy. ‘Summer Of‘69’ had everyone on their feet, whilst ‘Heaven’ once again incited the newly created Castlebar choir. Clearly appreciative of the adulation, he gave it back, and upon noticing a pair of empty seats in the front row, invited two ladies that were at the very back of the theatre in the ‘nose bleed’ seating on the third floor balcony to fill them. It's a fantastic gesture that the crowd received enthusiastically.
Handing control over to the audience for a ‘request’ section, he played a snippet of ‘Jealousy’ for one lady, a verse and chorus of '18 ‘Til I Die’ for another, and offered an apology to one man in the front row who has been to an incredible sixty Bryan Adams shows, for being unable to remember how to play one of his earliest songs. The cooperative atmosphere suited Adams, and as the main set drew to a close he urged the audience to their feet and out of their seats, “fill up that hallway” he commanded! They didn’t need asking twice and pretty soon the floor was wedged, turning the theatre into a concert hall as Bryan and Gary launched into a celebratory ‘The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You’.
The closing encores of ‘Somebody’ and ‘I Still Miss You… A Little Bit’ raised the roof on an incredible night, before ‘Straight From The Heart’ brought things right back to where they started, with a solitary Adams singing under a lone spotlight. Leaving to rapturous applause, he took time to shake hands with those in the front row before taking his parting bows.
The stripped down show offers affirmation, as if it were needed, of not only what a stunning catalogue of hits Adams has, but also his abilities as a singer, musician and entertainer. Those here tonight have witnessed something truly special. With the ‘Bare Bones’ tour coming to an end, normal service resumes with a full band arena tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of the ‘Reckless’ album due to hit the UK before the end of the year. Whether acoustic or electric, Adams knows how to put on a show and this was definitely a night to remember.