Bryan Adams, Matakana New Zealand, 2018

Bryan Adams 
2nd January 2018
Matakana Country Park, Matakana, New Zealand.

Review by Mike Thornton. Photography by Chris Zwaagdyk.

Bryan Adams performing live in Matakana, New Zealand, 2018. Image by ZED Pics.

It’s a glorious sunny afternoon in the mid-high 20s as we pack in to the Matakana Country Park. I’ve been anxiously checking the weather reports for two weeks, hoping that the stunning New Zealand summer we’ve been experiencing here throughout December 2017 will hold for the first couple of days of 2018 to get us through to today. The weather gods smiled on us tonight.

Anticipation is high for this concert, for myself and for the happy throngs converging on this beautiful wee venue tucked away in glorious Matakana. We’re (technically) a relatively short drive from Auckland – and an even shorter drive for many of tonight’s crowd who are likely holidaying in this part of the world – making an excursion out from the bach, campground or motel to include the show as part of their “epic things to do whilst on holiday” entertainment schedule. They’d have to have booked a while back – it’s a sold-out show, kicking off Bryan Adams’ Get Up tour in this part of the world.

All three acts to grace the stage tonight hold comfortable, happy memories for me. I confess I’ve never seen any of them at a proper show. That seems rather an odd thing for a Kiwi and a music fan of my generation (I was in sixth form when the “Summer of 69” was released – you do the maths), but it’s true. Well – mostly true. I think a couple of mates and I managed to blag or sneak our way (under age) in to see the tail end of a DD Smash set at the Windsor Tavern on Auckland’s North Shore once upon a time. Ah, nostalgia! It’s odd how looking back over time you realise how certain tracks have woven their way into the tapestry of one’s memory – regardless of been a die-hard fan or ever buying an album. In the years that tonight’s artists rose to prominence, I was most likely busy being a rock snob and slightly turning up my adolescent nose at “New Zealand music” in my ignorant and (as I now know) completely unfounded belief that “proper music” had to be borne out of England or the USA, and preferably in the 1970s. How very, very wrong I was – here we all are to revel in chart-topping mainstream pop rock brilliance delivered with consummate professionalism by the practiced vocal chords of two Canadians (Jordan and Bryan), and a Kiwi (Dave).

The Jordan Luck Band kicked proceedings off in fine form – special mention for the crisp drumming by Daniel “Beaver” Pooley throughout, as well as some terrific guitar breaks from Joe Walsh during many numbers. Mr. Luck is sporting his trademark mullet haircut, along with sunnies, a white tee, and stovepipe blue jeans. The crowd cheerfully soaks up a string of great singalongs – obvious favourites from The Dance Exponents (“Victoria”, “Only I Could Die”, “I’ll Say Goodbye (even Though I’m Blue)” amongst others) and The Exponents (“Erotic”, “What Ever Happened to Tracey”, “Who Loves Who The Most?” are all in the list. We are also treated – early in the set – to a rousing cover of Hello Sailor’s “Blue Lady”. It’s clear that Jordan enjoys his engagement with an appreciative audience – between songs we are introduced to members of the band, and there are a few jokes in the descriptions of songs – little anecdotes and tales. During “I’ll Say Good Bye” we are all engaged in a “guys vs gals” singalong contest, finishing with a highly uptempo ending to the song, to much laughter and warm applause. Jordan introduces the final song of the band’s set with a shout-out for the love of the music of Aotearoa, with a hat-tip to their recent tour-mates ElemenoP. Closing out this great set is a fantastic finale in the form of “Why Does Love Do This To Me?” by the end of which the crowd are definitely warmed up and participating vocally!

After a 30-minute interlude whilst the stage and band set-up is changed over, we are greeted by The Breeze radio host Robert Rakete, who by way of welcoming Dave Dobbyn to the stage describes the music of Dave Dobbyn as the soundtrack of his life recounting both a hook-up AND a break-up to one of DD’s songs (I’ve withheld the name of the song to protect the innocent and to make sure it’s not forever tainted for you…)

Dave Dobbyn and his band are an excellent outfit. Very warmly received by the crowd, there is a poise in the musical delivery by Dobbyn and his cohort. We are tipped straight into a pool of classics that immediately transport the crowd to wherever it was they first heard them. Bang, bang, bang – the set opens up with three beauts from Mr. Dobbyn’s vast back-catalogue, presented in reverse chronological sequence: “Language” (Dave Dobbyn), “Whaling” (DD Smash), and “Be Mine Tonight” (Th’ Dudes). These and all tracks are performed with excellence – terrific musicianship, harmonies and overall polish. Interspersed amongst the really great music are song introductions and jokes “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but no-one seems to be shooting at us – so I reckon we’re in pretty good shape”. We are given a heartfelt dedication by Dave Dobbyn to former DD Smash band-member Peter Warren who, we are advised, is in the crowd this evening; “this one’s for you, Pete – the crowd are going to sing it for you…” – and that we do (albeit somewhat shakily as it was a slower version) – dutifully belting out “Loyal” for all we’re worth. All this already, and the set is far from over, the audience revel in terrific renditions of mega-hits such as “Beside You”, “Love You Like I Should”, “Outlook for Thursday”. Next up is an excellent recent song from 2016’s Harmony House album – “You Get So Lonely”, and we finish up with yet epic deliveries of two mighty, beautiful, patriotic anthems: “Slice of Heaven” and “Welcome Home” – choruses dutifully echoed back to the stage by a loving crowd.

The crowd is now bubbling at high energy levels, and the sun is beginning to sink towards the horizon behind the left-hand stage towers. As we look forward to the arrival of the main act we enjoy music over the PA, accompanied by official imagery from Bryan Adam’s “Get Up!” album. As we get closer to the star’s arrival we are surprised by different (subtle) animated effects overlayed audio-visually – first it seems someone’s cell phone has been accidentally plugged into the PA as a typical ring-tone overlays the music, later a fly buzzes around the giant image of the singer’s head and lands on his nose; and finally there is a roar from the super-sized digital Bryan, as the real Bryan takes the stage in person, to rapturous applause. The video screen switches to a live stream of the view from the stage perspective and we’re into it – up and rocking to “One Night Love Affair” and with no rest on to “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and “Run to You”. Way to get the party started, Bryan! These are all colossal hits, we’re only three songs deep and loving it.

It’s testament to the depth and power of the long list of hits bestowed upon his fans that Mr. Adams is able to deliver those three so early in what will be a rollicking two hour, twenty-six song performance. There is so much more to come, and boy what a show! Bryan Adams and all members of the band are all smartly turned out in jeans with white shirts and dark jackets. This is an energetic and “on form” Bryan Adams who, at 58 and having arrived in the country this morning, sure knows how to get around a stage and who really packs a punch in his physical performance. He’s backed by a terrific band, each of whom are introduced warmly during the course of the evening. Stand-out musicianship and performances were delivered by all – from drums and rhythm section to piano/keyboards and guitar – but kudos to Keith Scott especially on lead guitar for a number of blistering solos peppered throughout the show, and a successfully pulled-off over-shoulder-guitar-sling move that would be a credit to 70’s glam-rockers – not to mention cracking slide guitar and Spanish guitar deliveries.

We didn’t spend all night jumping about, of course, as the gravelly but pure vocal talents of Mr. Adams bent themselves to the task of casting a number of beautiful, soaring ballads such as “Heaven”, “(Everything I Do,) I Do It for You”, and “Have you Ever Really loved A Woman?”. He’s not alone in the singing of these – the more vocally capable members of the crowd are matching him line for line. So are the less vocally-capable, to be fair – this certainly an enthusiastic audience. There are many tender moments to be observed as soppy (tipsy?) couples smile at and serenade each other! Quite lovely, when you consider that the median age of the audience members would have to be in the fifties.

There are of course some terrific bop-able moments, much to the merriment of my teenaged daughter who has accompanied (chaperoned?) me this evening as I dad-danced and air-guitared along – we delighted in the very rockabilly “You Belong to Me”. This was quickly followed by roars of delight as the opening drum-beat and strummed chords of “Summer of 69” boomed from the speakers. I don’t believe there could have been a single person not giving this singalong classic their all! Certainly, there could have been few excuses – apart from the fact that almost everyone in the known universe can recite this song – the accompanying giant black and white video depicted the lyrics handwritten on the curves of woman’s face, limbs and body. This stealthy karaoke technique is also employed later in the night in the videos for songs that the crowd might be less familiar with, such as “18 Til I Die” and “I Say Yeah”, for example. Not that the lyrics are especially difficult to grasp – but it sure makes the chanting along a lot easier when they are emblazoned in digital 50-foot high red all-caps typeface!

At a number of points in the evening we bask in some superb acoustic performances including just a solo Bryan Adams, using only voice, harmonica and guitar to weave his magic. There was magic aplenty, outside of just the acoustic performances. During “Cuts like a Knife” night is setting and there is a beautiful super-moon rising directly behind the audience, in full view from the perspective of the stage. After this song, Bryan takes photos and videos on his camera-phone – expecting a cheer as he pans from left to right to take in the scene we apparently mess it up and need coaching (but only a little) to start over and cheer throughout the entire shot!

Bryan Adams has kicked off his Get Up! Tour in absolutely tip-top style. His many passionate fans have left the venue tonight sated by his humour, warmth, and musical talent. We’ve sung our hearts out, clapped our hands and waved our phone lights in gleeful revelry, and bounced our way through a solid 2-hour set of pure, simple, honest pop-rock delivered with absolute class.

Bryan Adams:
Dave Dobbyn:

Were you there at the Matakana Country Park for this magnificent summer gig? Or have you seen Bryan Adams perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

Setlist:
  1. One Night Love Affair
  2. Can’t Stop This Thing We Started
  3. Run To You
  4. Go Down Rocking
  5. Heaven
  6. This Time
  7. It’s Only Love
  8. Please Stay
  9. Cloud Number 9
  10. You Belong To Me
  11. Summer of ’69
  12. Here I Am [acoustic]
  13. When You’re Gone [acoustic]
  14. (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
  15. Back to You
  16. Somebody
  17. Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?
  18. The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me is You
  19. Cuts Like a Knife
  20. 18 til I Die
  21. I’m Ready
  22. Brand New Day
  23. Ultimate Love [encore]
  24. I Fought The Law [Sonny Curtis cover] [encore]
  25. Straight From The Heart [acoustic] [encore]
  26. All for Love [encore]

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