Concert Review – Bryan Adams “Bare Bones” Live at The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (10/12/12)

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

My wife turned me on to Bryan Adams. And, while his music remains a little too mainstream for my personal comfort, I have grown to respect his talent and work ethic immensely. Not to mention, he has written some great songs. My first impression of him was from the 80’s monster hit “Cuts Like A Knife”.  I immediately (and unfairly) dismissed him as a junior league Springsteen or Canada’s answer to John Mellencamp.  In a sense he does mine the same rock quarry as other heartland rockers, but he has none of the pretensions of a Springsteen and (truth be known) writes better melodies than Mellencamp.

Critical nitpicking aside, Bryan Adams is a major talent.  It’s an easy assessment to make while sitting third row center at this latest installment of his unplugged and personal “Bare Bones” tour. Adams takes the stage armed with only a Martin guitar, his formidably gritty voice and an endless set-list of hits. He is intermittently accompanied by solid, unobtrusive grand pianist Gary Breit who adds heft and gravitas at all the right moments.

The stage lighting is spare and unfussy; spotlighting the man and the music perfectly.  Adams still has his boyish frame and his impish teenage kid-next-door looks and humor. He basks in the audience adulation while refusing to court it or kiss ass. A packed house hung on every quip and guitar strum.  And, if you are not a fan of his music, at least give it up for a 52 year old man who can make an auditorium full of Conejo Valley cougars and soccer moms swoon on command. Even the nubile twenty-something girls sitting next to me maintained rapt attention for the entire two hour concert.

In the end it’s the voice that commands the hall. Bryan Adams is simply one of the most expert and controlled rock singers in the business. He has the grit of Rod Stewart, the range of a young Robert Plant with pitch control to spare. And, while Bryan’s guitars skills are those of a journeyman; he knows his instrument and has a solid command and confidence in his playing that assures the songs are always framed effectively.  There are no tuning problems or muffed chords at a Bryan Adams concert. I also give high marks to the sound; which was present, full and powerful without being overbearing.

I’m old school enough to still believe the test of a true musician is the ability to stand before two thousand paying customers without amps, tinsel or dance troupes and deliver music to the masses that leaves them wanting more. Bryan Adams has been turning this trick now for the last two years and does not seem to be slowing down yet. Who needs a band when you’re The Man?

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