Gig review: Bryan Adams at First Direct Arena, Leeds

'We'd like to play a song we did with Tina Turner,' Bryan Adams tells a sweltering, near-capacity First Direct Arena, introducing It's Only Love.

Bryan Adams

“In fact…” He turns to the side of stage and raises an arm, gesturing to the wings as drummer Mickey Curry plays a snare roll. After ten seconds, the Canadian singer-songwriter turns back to the microphone with a mischievous grin and shrugs. “She’s not here!” he deadpans to big belly-laughs.

For a musician with somewhat of a po-faced reputation, Adams’ sense of understated humour is ever-present at his first stop-off in Leeds since 2014. Before he even takes to the stage, a mock-serious background still of the 58-year-old periodically sparks to life, winking at the audience or snatching a fly with a forked tongue.

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When he does, he star-jumps with long-time guitar foil Keith Scott, trading licks in mid-air; later, on The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me is You, the pair synchronise dance moves down the front, wagging their behinds to the delirious screams of middle-aged fans crowded at the barrier.

No stranger to British shores – this is his fourth full tour of the country in five years – Adams is here behind last autumn’s compilation Ultimate, one that showcases his role as both eighties hard-edged rocker and 90s-pop power-balladeer. He frontloads from the former; across an opening run of almost a dozen big guitar songs, only arms-aloft lighters-anthem Heaven comes unequipped with a chunky riff. A sonically searing Run to You and the rockabilly rambunctiousness of You Belong to Me hauls the crowd to their feet; a thrillingly writ-large Summer of ’69 keeps them dancing in the aisles.

The second half slows in comparison, anchored by more sedate fare; a gorgeous, stripped-back rendition of 2002’s Here I Am conjures chills, whilst synonymous schmaltz mega-hit Everything I Do (I Do it for You) leaves couples weeping and embracing. If less muscularly thrilling than the opening hour, Adams keeps the goodwill flowing deep into the encore; a rough-hewn take on I Fought the Law segues into a sandpaper-scuffed solo version of Whiskey in the Jar before a closing one-two of Straight from the Heart and All for Love, dedicated touchingly to his 90-year-old mother.

As the band play themselves off with Jersey Boys-style hand jives, they give the air of a well-worn residency fixture; as feature attractions go, Adams is one well worth coming back to.