Bryan Adams packs all the hits at the Kia Forum

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Canadian rockstar Bryan Adams played nearly 110 minutes at the Kia Forum on Saturday night, for his non-stop Los Angeles-area date of the So Happy It Hurts Tour with punk icon Joan Jett and The Black Hearts. The two had massive careers in the 1980s, Adams more for his pop/rock sound and Jett for her punk-driven rock, while also hitting it big in the 70s (and Adams in the 90s). It was all of the hits all night, along with some unexpected covers from Adams as well as some poignant moments, praising two recently fallen artists, Tina Turner and Sinead O’Connor, but more on that later. 

New York’s Joan Jett and The Blackhearts took the stage just about when Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” was finishing up on the soundsystem. Aggressive new punk tune “Shooting Into Space” (off recent EP Mindsets kicked off the set, with Jett joined by her band of four musicians and guitarist Dougie Needles harmonizing while futuristic 3D visuals spun behind them. They were joined by Kenny Laguna on keys, Hal B. Selzer on bass and Michael McDermott on drums. Jett’s hit “Cherry Bomb” from earlier band The Runaways was next, lively as ever with the song title blasted on the screen like “POW” in a comic book. “Hello Los Angeles, we got some singers out there?”, asked Jett. The crowd did rounds of “oh yeahs”, echoing throughout the Forum for the suggestive anthem “Do You Wanna Touch (Oh Yeah)” with totally badass guitars and a vocal that was rockin’ and pure at the same time. Jett complimented the crowd on their nice voices and mentioned her first band. “You Drive Me Wild,” another early Runaways song from 1976 and one of the earliest tunes she ever wrote had hard rock, rockabilly and garage elements with Jett’s voice a little extra raspy, along with some stellar guitar instrumentals with Jett and two guitarists. Jett mentioned the new songs the band released a couple months ago on album Mindsets and played another from the collection called “(Make the Music Go) Boom”, with an awesome guitar solo from JJ.

The Blackhearts member Kenny Laguna talked about starting the band with Joan and how they couldn’t get a deal because the music industry couldn’t get behind a female-fronted band. They toured and got a hit record. They then played “Fake Friends,” with guitarist Needles harmonizing with Jett and later bassist Selzer faced Jett during a guitar break as magenta with gold highlights illuminated the band. Their version of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” took on its own punk life, with Jett and the guitars sounding completely in the pocket. “You know, I want to acknowledge Sinead O’Connor’s passing,” said Jett. “It’s been on my mind.” The band played “If You’re Blue”, another new straight-up punk song and continued with 2018’s “Fresh Start”, the theme song from Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation documentary. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ ballad-meets-rock anthem “Crimson and Clover” featured an excellent guitar instrumental and the call-and-response from the fans sounded so good echoed in the Forum. The smashes continued with the addicting “Hate Myself for Loving You” with the guitars in overdrive. They followed it up immediately with one of the most iconic rock guitar vamps, with the fans immediately aware it was “Bad Reputation” and Jett’s vocal was simply badass. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts closed with blues-rock tune “Whiskey Goes Good,” which had twangy elements and overall it felt like their own concert ahead of Bryan Adams.

Photo by Timothy Norris / Kia Forum

Pop/rock superstar Bryan Adams played a generous amount of time, nearly two hours and 24 songs including two covers. It was a bright and inviting performance with a few moments of Adams speaking candidly about the passing of his father years back, as well as about his mother who appears in new music video for “So Happy It Hurts,” the title track of Adams’ 2022 album and the given name of his tour. The LA show was a big return, following Adams’ seven-date stint at The Encore at The Wynn in Las Vegas earlier this year as well as Asian dates and a special Stagecoach Festival stop this spring in Indio, CA. During the show intro, Bryan Adams got out of the white car on the screen after a voiceover discussed rock music and rock’s savior coming to earth in boots, blue jeans and a baseball cap. The minimalist stage featured four musicians accompanying the frontman with red lights flashing during new song “Kick Ass,” yelling “with a kick ass rock band.” The fans clapped along a bit and two band members joined in on the catchy “whoa-ohs”.

1991 feel-good tune “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” had pure-as-ever vocals from Adams, who visited the sides of the stage to give fans all over some respect as gears were winding on the screen behind the band (keeping with the automotive theme). Adams kept the energy high, taking it back to the 80s for the stadium-ready “Somebody” with the crowd singing along as B&W documentary-style visuals of the band playing live hit the screen. Adams shouted “Somebody!” at the end and huge cheers followed as he paused for a couple seconds to look out to his fans. Blues-rock tune “Take Me Back” was next with both guitarists joining Adams on the mic for a gang vocal and an awesome guitar instrumental for Adams. It was the kind of hot bass line accompanied with a soulful vocal that Tina Turner would jump on. The first major hit was known by its opening moments, and that song was “Please Forgive Me,” with crying guitars and beautiful piano accompanying Adams’ heartfelt vocal. There were more B&W visuals for “One Night Love Affair” and after Adams asked, “Hi everyone, how are you tonight? My name is Bryan. It’s been a while since we’ve played here and it’s great to be back in your town”.

Bryan Adams talked about a song called “Shine A Light” that he wrote for his dad about 5 years ago, a really hopeful, vibrant song that made for a really happy tribute. The positive message was met with camera lights up from fans, creating a beautiful atmosphere during the midtempo tune. The background visuals acted as video billboards at a bus station and outdoor ads, showing off the concert and moments of the crowd. Adams let his fans open one of his most iconic ballads, “Heaven,” giving an outstanding vocal once he turned the mic back on himself, soaring in both delicate and powerful vocal moments. The guitar solo was also as epic as ever.

“We lost Tina earlier in the year but it was especially a loss for me because she was a friend to me. When you’re a young musician and someone takes you on…we did loads of shows. But being a friend is something else”. [Interesting editor’s note: Adams was supposed to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct Tina Turner in late 2021 but he tested positive for Covid]”. The tribute to Tina Turner was their duet “It’s Only Love,” with Keith Scott on some sick lead guitars. Adams and Scott faced one another for a moment and the power in the amps was felt as lights blazed during some meticulous picking from Scott. Red lights were up for the feel-good “This Time,” giving off both familiarity and comfort when he sings, truly evoking easier times. The crowd was dancing for 50s-flavored rock song “You Belong To Me,” with fans shown acting a fool like it was a baseball game. Solomon Walker played upright bass on the stage adding to the moment and Scott did a little solo dance jumping around. It was followed by a slightly more rockabilly “I’ve Been Looking For You,” with Walker’s upright bass still front and center with Adams.

Colorful bursts made their way on the backing screen for the 90s hit “Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You” with a hot drum break from Pat Steward. The first of three film soundtrack songs was next, the impressive “Here I Am” from Spirit. Gary Breit was phenomenal on the keys, alone with Adams on acoustic guitar, gently plucking while the place was nearly silent taking in the magic. Bryan Adams’ voice was incredibly rich on this one, shining as Breit’s piano instrumental galloped along under purple spotlights. The next whopper was “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) and the entire Forum was singing along. The piano was stellar again and the entire instrumental was the epic song you would hope for with a 90s power ballad. After the collective chills, fluorescent colors lit up the band and the stage for “Back To You,” with the crowd clapping along to the midtempo as the pounding piano rolled on.

Adams’ forever-youthful tune “18 Til I Die” was really fun with the lyrics flashing in massive bold, followed by the other iconic guitar vamp of “Summer Of ’69”. The production value was high from all instruments, with all concertgoers up if they weren’t already. Adams and Scott ran with their guitars from opposite sides and high-fived. Adams did an unusual thing for an arena show —a request period of the show, which he said is one of his “favorite parts of the night”.  “Let’s Make A Night To Remember” was the first, beautiful with the smoky texture of his voice hitting all the marks, followed by “When The Night Comes,” which Adams wrote for Joe Cocker. Scott had another standout guitar solo on “Cuts Like A Knife” and the crowd had a cool moment with the song’s infectious “na-na-nas”, plus there was a thrilling drum moment from Steward with the other musicians surrounding him.

Adams said, “Everybody say hi to Doris,” referring to the floating inflatable car emblazoned with Adams’ name and the tour name, fittingly playing the song “So Happy It Hurts” as everyone clapped along. Bryan Adams’ added that his 95-year-old mom was in the car with him in the accompanying video that played, wearing glamorous sunglasses and a scarf over her head in a classic movie style. The guitars twinkled for the 1984 tune “Run To You” with adventurous B&W visuals of roads and forests. Adams did a cover of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” after telling the crowd, “I’m incredibly proud to be back playing in Los Angeles”. The musicians who were dressed in all black and denim did a little bow and a dance and Adams said, ” I want to thank my ma, she’s 95 years old. I dropped out of school when I was 15 and she let me do that and I went out on the road. When I was 17 or 18, I asked for the thousand dollars stashed away for my college education and asked for a piano. And that’s why I’m playing guitar tonight”. The audience laughed and Adams played acoustic guitar solo to “Straight From the Heart,” a song he wrote when he was 18. Fans echoed his vocals and Adams was under a spotlight with reds and yellows, adding in just the perfect touch of harmonica. After a couple bars reprising “Shine A Light,” he blended it well with his other movie soundtrack theme, “All for Love” (from The Three Musketeers). The phone camera lights were up again, creating a special setting for the final song about unity. From writing for Joe Cocker to touring with Tina Turner and Joan Jett, recording with Hans Zimmer and collaborating with Rod Stewart and Sting, Bryan Adams is a real treasure in pop/rock music and though he’s never been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he is surely deserving.

Words by Michael Menachem
Photos by Timothy Norris / Kia Forum