I was beginning to worry there was some unknown plague infecting Miami. Every one of my friends I tried to invite as my "plus one" to review Bryan Adams' Saturday-night concert at the Fillmore was suddenly sick. But I didn't take the rejection personally. These flus and suspicious hot dates weren't contrived against me. This was about Bryan Adams, or at least I hoped.
I turned 13 the wrong year for Bryan Adams. When my teenage rebellion was piqued for hard-edged music — whether gangster rap or nihilistic grunge — Bryan Adams was cooing awful power ballads about how everything he did, he did for me. In that summer of '91, every time I turned on MTV in the hopes of seeing Van Halen's "Poundcake," I instead got a glimpse of the perfectly coifed Canadian rocker wandering around Sherwood Forest singing, "Search your heart, search your soul, and when you find me there, you'll search no more."
I directly blame those lyrics, along with every John Cusack movie, for my generation's inflated expectations of the sensitivity level of their significant others.
But as a music critic, I try to be a professional. Throwing away prejudices has allowed me to enjoy concerts I never thought I would.
Stepping into the Fillmore, it was hard not to feel a certain level of excitement. The sold-out show was packed. A three-piece band was jamming in the lobby as couples who might have lost their virginity to "Cuts Like a Knife" in the 1983 waited in line to buy beer.
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A little after 8 p.m., Adams walked on to the stage with gelled hair and a sports coat that would have him perfectly comfortable at a hedge-fund manager's summer mixer. Backed by his longtime guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist (whom he refers to as the Dudes of Leisure), Adams came out with the earnest, high-energy bar-band rock ’n’ roll of "Do What Ya Gotta Do" followed by "Can't Stop This Thing We Started."
The music was fine. The Dudes of Leisure all had chops, Bryan's voice sounded good, his diction clear enough so his lyrics could fit whatever product advertisers might wish to sell you. The music was the soundtrack of a million midlife crises, bringing the crowd back to a past that — for one Saturday night anyway — they could believe was still in their future.
The enthusiasm of the audience singing along to every word of "Heaven" and "Summer of '69" was enough to almost win me over. Sure, his music was a little bland and the songwriting heavy on cliché, but it was inoffensive and not hurting anyone. Maybe I could leave writing a positive review.
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But then came those familiar piano chords, followed by shrieks and those words that have occasionally slipped into the nightmares of my youth: "Look into my eyes."
It was "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," and suddenly, with the sappy New Age instrumentation and his raspy voice, I was transported back 25 years in a time machine I had no interest in boarding. It was one of the few songs in the concert where there were no visuals, and for once in my life, I prayed for a mullet-clad Kevin Costner to swing down from the rafters and distract me from the sweetness. I looked around and saw a woman waving a Canadian flag and a couple slow-dancing in the aisle. As the song's never-ending chorus continued, I realized listening to this song for the rest of eternity would make for a pretty effective circle of hell. When I was an inch away from a complete panic attack, the song finally ended.
He played for another hour. There were more rockers like "If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good" and ballads like "I'll Always Be Right There." But, sadly, I could not give you an honest criticism on these renditions. The psychic scars of "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" run too deep.
And, now, it might just take another 25 years to heal.