Review: Bryan Adams fires up Clearwater's Coachman Park with powerful, plugged-in show
"If I’m gonna go down, I’m gonna go down rockin'!" Bryan Adams howled to more than 5,000 fans on Friday at Coachman Park in Clearwater.
He was singing a cut from his new album Get Up – the aptly titled Go Down Rockin’ – and as such, he acknowledged the crowd probably didn’t know any of the lyrics.
But that didn’t stop them from dancing, and it sure didn’t stop him from singing. This was a side of Bryan Adams Tampa Bay hasn’t seen in more than a dozen years – amplified by his longtime band, and roaring out fully plugged-in renditions of hits like Can't Stop This Thing We Started, Cuts Like a Knife and Run To You, with the audience singing right along.
While he skipped Let’s Make a Night to Remember, Friday nonetheless felt like one. With even more live music up the road at the Capitol Theatre, and the Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival on the docket for Saturday and Sunday, it's a watershed weekend for concerts in downtown Clearwater.
The Adams concert made this Sea-Blues weekend feel even more special, as big solo show like this are rare in Coachman Park. It offered a festival-like setting that allowed fans to see the Canadian icon the way the way he’s still viewed around much of the rest of the world — as an arena-filling superstar.
A well-preserved 56, Adams runs a pretty tight ship as a frontman, with his band all attired in matching dark blazers, and his hair coiffed tightly enough to crack glass.
But while his look was all business, he apparently enjoyed his day-plus in Clearwater, riffing on meeting drunken fans in a Mexican restaurant and feeling awed by the sight of dolphins while jogging on the Memorial Causeway Bridge.
“I know it’s not a big deal for you people to see dolphins, but it’s a really big f---ing deal for me,” he said. “I love dolphins!”
As with most Bryan Adams songs, the theme of the night was rocking out, rocking hard and rocking often – Go Down Rockin’, Kids Wanna Rock, 18 til I Die, C'mon Everybody. The power-poppy This Time was loaded with righteous E Street energy. while the insistent Brand New Day careened forward with Adams pounding at his axe – not bad for two songs released 32 years apart.
Adams didn’t have Tina Turner by his side for It’s Only Love, but he did have guitarist Keith Scott hanging off his microphone, the Little Stevie to his Bruce. Like drummer Mickey Curry, Scott has been with Adams more than 30 years, and their good-natured chemistry shone through as Adams yielded the spotlight to Scott for a scorching solo on Heaven. He also strapped on a Spanish guitar to accompany Adams on the warmly plucked acoustic ballads I’ll Always Be Right There and Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?.
Despite the full band’s chops and contributions, one can also understand why Adams has spent so many of these last few years touring solo and acoustic. His scratchy burlap vocals haven’t aged a day, and going unplugged, as he did on the warm I’ll Always Be Right and soulful obscurity Lonely Nights, showcased them at their very best.
Adams nailed every note on all-time power ballads Heaven and (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, and dug deep to give Somebody extra oomph. He even closed the show solo with three sing-along, hug-along ballads – She Knows Me, Straight From the Heart and All For Love, with a sea of fans waving iPhone lights in the air.
And then there were the songs where Adams didn’t even need to sing.
As he raced through jukebox fave Summer of ’69, behind him played a video of a woman with the lyrics inked all over her body – fitting, since they might as well be tattooed on all of ours. He extended the mic so that fans, too, could scream that familiar, fist-pumping paean to nostalgia as loudly as they liked.
Fans knew the words to that one, and many more to boot. Until Adams goes down rocking, they'll keep singing. And they'll have plenty of company.
-- Jay Cridlin