After all these riffs and all these years, the kids still wanna rock.
The kids aren’t really kids anymore, of course. Most of them are all grown up now, just like 52-year-old Canadian rocker Bryan Adams himself, who brought his band — guitarist Keith Scott, drummer Mickey Curry, keyboardist Gary Breit and bassist Norm Fisher — to the MTS Centre on Friday night.
We’re grown-up enough to know they just don’t write tunes like Kids Wanna Rock anymore.
Still, minutes into his marathon 150-minute show — his first rock’n’roll gig here since 2006 — Adams leaned into the microphone and belted out that unapologetically hooky chorus. And thousands of fists pumped the air, and you couldn’t help but think — maybe they should write songs like this again.
And maybe people should sing them like this again, too.
Adams is a slight man, but 30 years into his career he still has an effortless way of filling up a space. His soaring sandpaper voice, so ragged for his age back in 1984, hasn’t aged a day. Neither has his rakish charm, which he peppered through the show in the form of a little sharp banter.
"I don’t know if I ever told you this story, but I’ll tell you again," Adams quipped, shortly before kicking into the blazing Hearts on Fire. "I remember coming to Winnipeg many, many years ago… and there was so much snow that the only way to get to the gig was by snowmobile.
"Anyway," he winked, after a pause, "that’s the whole story."
Cue the laughter in the crowd. Cue dancing. Cue gentle swaying, during the ballad-heavy first half of the concert, and the grasping hands as Adams waded through the audience during Do I Have to Say the Words, pausing to let fans strum his guitar with their fingers.
Adams has never really gone in for fussy production, and even though it was a party — the 20th anniversary celebration of his Waking Up the Neighbours breakthrough, which was technically 2011 — Friday night’s show was no exception. The stage was adorned only by gear and a looming video screen, the lighting subdued.
Instead of bells and whistles, Adams put his slew of memorable pop-rock songs front and centre, punctuating them with occasional playful touches: for instance, the plastic-pail percussion that gave If You Wanna Leave (Can I Come Too) and Touch the Hand a funky street-corner makeover.
A little while later — after another round of crowd-pleasers, including the quintessential pop-rock ballad (Everything I Do) I Do It For You — Adams pulled up a blushing fan by the name of Angela from St. Vital to duet the driving When You’re Gone. She did an admirable job despite, she admitted, not being a very confident singer.
Still, despite the steady and solid stream of hits, the pace of the show seemed a little off. Instead of building to a climax as most concerts (and Adams’ previous shows) have done, the song order seemed to stumble into the final stretch.
Not, mind you, that it was a big enough bump to stop the crowd from springing to their feet with explosive cheers after Adams wrapped up the main set with the explosive Never Be Another Tonight.