Bryan Adams: Get Up World Tour / Ticketpro Dome, Randburg, Johannesburg 8
There was a moment on stage on his 9 December show when Bryan Adams mentioned the Get Up World Tour (named for his latest studio collection, which he’s busy promoting) becoming the Ultimate World Tour. For the unobservant, that was a worrying announcement – a synonym for “ultimate” is “final”, and, what with the number of musical household names who’ve hung up their guitars or shuffled off this mortal mic cable in recent years, it seemed both unlikely and unfair that the popular Canadian was also delivering his last hurrah.
It transpires, though, that Adams has a new best-of collection coming out, and its title is – simply – Ultimate. So, depending how you look at it, he’s either piggy-backing a new tour on the back of this one to make the most of one set of admin or is immediately launching a follow-up outing the moment another is completed (shows are billed as part of the Ultimate World Tour as of the beginning of 2018).
Either way, such productivity and energy is a trademark of Adams’s career and this particular show, as he and his band – drummer Mickey Curry, bassist Norm Fisher, pianist Gary Breit and guitarist Keith Scott; average age approaching 60 – cruise through a 26-song set without a drop in dynamism or precision.
The show begins with the artwork from Get Up – a headshot of Adams with a woman standing behind him, her hands slightly obscuring his face – projected behind the stage. Vigilant audience members will notice slight, apparently random tweaks to the picture (rolled eyes; a pout; the quick checking of messages on a phone) before it returns to normal. It’s a funny, Terry Gilliam-esque idea that showcases Adam’s ability to not take himself too seriously, another facet of which emerges later when he introduces Everything I Do (I Do It For You) with the line, “If you don’t know this one, you must have been living under a rock,” delivered without guile or hubris.
The show is a near non-stop procession of hits, with arguably the most impressive facet of the whole project being the consistency of the quality of Adams’ songwriting – his material from the early Eighties, right through to this year’s releases, all have strong hooks, singable segments and relatable sentiments. The all-arena singalongs happen in predictable spots in the set – Summer Of ’69; the aforementioned Everything I Do; I’m Ready – but also during tunes where, for whatever reason, it’s less expected, such as Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?, When You’re Gone, Cloud #9 and 18 Til I Die, and Adams and the band milk those moments with false endings, long mid-song interludes and other stage strategies.
And the songs from Get Up! – Go Down Rocking, You Belong To Me, Brand New Day – fit seamlessly into the progression, less well-known lyrically, perhaps, but just as enthusiastically cheered.
During some parts of the show, the band exit for a breather and Adams and his Martin acoustic guitar take centre stage to deliver stripped-down roots versions of a selection of songs. Interestingly, this is how the encore ends – not with an enormous fanfare and everyone taking a bow at the front of the stage, but with just Adams and his fans smiling at each other. It’s his name on the poster, to be fair, but it’s still unusual; a marker of his confidence and the connection he has with the crowd.
Get Up! Is not the end, and on this evidence, nor will Ultimate be. Even if Adams never writes another song, he could tour this set for another decade to the same audience that bought these tickets and still be loudly applauded.