Bryan Adams Wembley 1996 Live came out on October 14th, but sadly our review copy got held up in the post so we didn’t get to tell you about it until after the date. The fact that we’re two weeks behind and still putting up a review should be telling you that we want you to know about it – and for all the best reasons.
First things first, the wife had the same opinion of the DVD at first glance that a lot of you may have. “Huh, Bryan Adams? He’s only got, like, three songs.” And then she looked at the back of the box at the tracklist. “Oh, I like that one. And that one. Heard of that. Oh, is that one by him? I forgot about that one…” and on it went until she’d pretty much admitted to liking half of the over-two-hour setlist.
The video is well-recorded but in the old 4:3 ratio because, basically, it’s old. No widescreen here! This doesn’t affect the enjoyment much, though. After all, the Greatest Wembley Gig Of All Time Ever (Queen, a decade earlier) was in the same format. As with many other recent music DVDs, though, this is an NTSC release which means that – on my setup at least – it can sometimes be a little “smeary”. It’s a shame they’ve not gone for a PAL release for those of us with TVs that can handle the higher resolution. Like, erm, everyone these days.
Minor niggle aside, this is a superb set from Adams when he was at his peak. There are few acts these days who could expect to fill up a football stadium, so it’s great being able to pop back a few decades to when these kind of events were semi-regular. Adams may not be everyone’s cup of tea (he’s definitely very much on the light end of the scale) but you’ve got to credit him for being a great songwriter and performer.
The camera angles throughout are great and really give you a feel for what it must have been like to be there. From mid-crowd to stage-side to above-and-behind the man himself, there’s not a corner of the old Wembley that you don’t get to see. The numerous crowd shots are incredible – not just a sea but an ocean of hands. During opener “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You”, “Touch The Hand” and others they’re clapping away for the duration. During the spine-tingling “Heaven” that closes the show, they’re waving side to side in unison – Adams’ equivalent of the “clapclapCLAP” moment during Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Watching half the stadium jump in rhythm to the beginning of “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”… wow.
The crowd get in on the singing, too, with the edit focussing on their screams of “The Kids Wanna Rock!” during the chorus to that track, “Nanana-nanananana-nana” in “Cuts Like A Knife” and in other places. This makes for a great live recording – I’m a firm believer that you need crowd noise otherwise you might as well just get the band into a studio playing “as live”. As far as other voices go, the wonderful Melissa Etheridge grabs the mic for “It’s Only Love” – definitely a special moment.
The backing band are superb and often get little credit. Guitarist Keith Scott handled both lead and rhythm duties simultaneously on later tours when the band became a three-piece (Adams played bass) which is pretty impressive. Amusingly in this video he’s wearing Aston Villa colours – it’ll be a while before we see those at Wembley again *cough*.
If there’s one fault (other than the NTSC grumble) it’s that the copy I got didn’t come bundled with a CD recording so I could listen to it in the car. A superb set by a long-standing artist at his peak during an era when our kind of quality music was taking a beating courtesy of record companies “playing it safe”. A masterclass in stadium rock.
Bryan Adams – Wembley 1996 Live is out now and you can get it from, amongst other places, Amazon on DVD (link supports our site).