Bryan Adams talks about his upcoming Hong Kong gig, and resisting the death of the album
Canadian rocker best known for pop hits (Everything I Do) I Do it for You and Summer of ’69 says Hong Kong fans expect all the old songs but they’ll also hear tracks from his recent album – a medium he isn’t willing to give up on yet
Bryan Adams must have the patience of a saint.
The Canadian rocker who wrote, performed and made a fortune from the song that has never gone off the radio and soundtracked almost every wedding and engagement party since 1992 says he never tires of playing (Everything I Do) I Do it for You.
“It’s a brilliant song to play live,” he says of the 1991 track that went to No 1 on most charts around the world and still holds the record for sitting atop the UK list. “I love that song – I still enjoy playing it.”
It’s just as well for his Hong Kong fans that Adams isn’t the type of veteran rocker who would shun a three-decade old hit and a four-decade-long back catalogue when he’s touring a new album. While some stars self-reverentially insist on loading their sets with their latest songs, Adams has been more than happy to call on hits like Run to You and the global blockbuster Summer of ’69 on a world tour that reaches Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo on January 14.
“Every time I look at my set it just gets better as I’ve added more songs to it,” he says over the phone from Manitoba, in the midst of a run of homecoming shows. “In the beginning when I first started gigging, I struggled to find something to play next. Now I play the songs everyone likes, I play some new songs and some others from the back catalogue. It’s really fun to be able to put together the set list.”
The new songs he speaks of are those from his latest album, Get Up, which this tour is promoting. It’s been hailed as a return to form for Adams, whose career never has seemed to go off the boil. His first release in eight years is full of short, snappy pan-generational pop-rockers, some of them tinged with the rootsy, gutsy and sometimes country flourishes that he made his own in the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s.
It came about despite Adams’ admission that he feels a little adrift in a music industry that isn’t disposed towards albums any more. “Things have changed significantly since I started – technologically. It’s quite a fascinating time for music – the idea of an album is a thing of the past,” he says.
That’s not to demonise the download age, however. While today’s music fans cherry pick individual songs and compile their own playlists, Adams believes there is life in the album format yet. “People are more interested in individual songs than an album, but there must be a way of creating albums so you can entice people back.”
It’s easy to see why the old rockers want to see a return to the old single/album/tour industry structure: it’s been lucrative for them. Adams alone is believed to be worth US$65 million, according CelebrityNetWorth.com. That’s come from his singles – including the irritatingly punctuated (Everything I Do) …, the 12th biggest-selling record of all time – as well as platinum selling albums, including Wake up the Neighbours and Cuts Like a Knife.
Creditably, he exudes a sense of disbelief at his own success, modestly putting much of it down to luck. That and hard work; he seems to have gone about his craft in a doggedly workmanlike way. Take, for instance the way he followed up (Everything I Do). Far from sitting back and watching the money roll in, he went straight back to work, scoring three more chart-topping hits that year, toured the world and then re-released Summer of ’69. The following year he did it all over again, with another movie soundtrack, another hit album and more hit singles.
For anyone else, the success of (Everything I Do) might have been an albatross, the weight of expectation brought by it hobbling any further artistic development. “I don’t think like that – I couldn’t at that time,” he says. “It helped many of my other songs. Suddenly my back catalogue became internationally well known.”
The prime example of that was Summer of ’69, a song originally released in 1984 on the album Reckless. “At the time it did nothing anywhere else in the world,” Adams says. “It just proliferated by itself. One month it was No 1 in Holland; that news spread to Belgium; that went to Germany … and it never really stopped. Then it became a big karaoke theme and it was played in the pubs all the time.
“It’s had a life of its own. Despite being released in 1984 the song’s gone on to reveal a big other life. I’m very proud of it - it’s one of those songs that most time it kicks off on its own; people just start singing it. I could just telepathically send it in at gigs.”
That song was riding high in the charts the last time he played in Hong Kong. Much has changed since then, for him and for the city. Like many musicians who jet in and out for one gig, his most vivid memory is of the food.
Despite his huge success in the interim, he’s not even been back to the region since.
“It’s hard to remember what I did back then,” he says, mind boggling at the thought of returning to Asia to play in cities such as Jakarta and Manila, which weren’t even considered markets on his previous journey east.
Then, shows with big-name stars were few and far between. Now those cities are regular stops for touring artists. That’s likely to make things easy for him, Adams says.
“You just do what you do – I don’t think I’m going to have to translate my songs into Indonesian,” he jokes. “You just go there to rip it. People are familiar with the music and even if there are people who come for one song, they might just get surprised - because that’s what rock shows do.”
Bryan Adams, January 14, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau, HK$480-HK$980, hkticketing.com