Review: Two legendary ’80s rockers combine forces at Bay Area concert

Two very different sides of ’80s music were on display on Friday night, as Bryan Adams delivered his straight-ahead brand of roots rock and Dave Stewart unpacked the highly stylish Eurythmics songbook at the SAP Center.

Despite sharing a particular decade in common, the two styles hardly proved to be a natural match in concert. Yet, they were both enjoyable and combined to make for a memorable 3 1/2 hour evening of music in downtown San Jose.

Adams, 64, was the headline attraction and used the occasion to illustrate exactly why he’s remained such a popular concert draw over his nearly 50-year career (which began when he took over as the lead singer of the glam-rock band Sweeney Todd as a young teen).

The Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist — who also experienced great commercial success in the ’90s — was energetic and committed to the cause as he ran through 29 songs in roughly two hours.

And what was the cause? Well, as it turns out, Adams was reportedly on a mission from God.

The set began with a towering spoken-word intro (from actor John Cleese), who brought us back to the start of creation and how Adams (not Adam, mind you) fit into it all.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth, then he created the waters and the land, and then he created man,” Cleese explained. “But man degenerated and descended into the black hole of making bad music.”

The problem was, as Cleese pointed out, “there was no rock music!” So, as this particular story goes, God sent Adams to change all that. And he got right down to business as took the SAP Center stage and opened the set with “Kick Ass.”

“Let there be guitar! Drums! Bass! Piano! Let there be a kick-ass, kick-ass rockin’ band,” Adams exclaimed. “Let’s go!”

With a song title like that — and lyrics like “If you like some kick-ass rockin’ music, we’re a kick-ass rockin’ band” — Adams is certainly opening himself up to ridicule from music snobs and people with no senses of humor. Yet, he appears to be totally in on the joke, not taking himself even a tiny bit serious as he performs the over-the-top number (from his latest album and tour namesake, 2022’s “So Happy It Hurts”) with the type of gusto required to properly oversell the moment.

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The song actually made for an excellent opening segment, immediately getting fans out of their seats and in a party mood that would last for much of the night.

Fitting Adams’ roots-rock image, the show was a strictly low-frills production, with just Adams and his four excellent fellow musicians sharing the stage under the bright lights and with a simple video screen in the back. But who need pyrotechnics when you can produce fireworks all on your own with such winners as “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started,” “Somebody,” “18 til I Die” and “Please Forgive Me.”

Adams sounded great throughout the night as he mixed such big up-tempo rockers as “Run to You,” “I’ve Been Looking For You” and “Go Down Rockin’” with romantic ballads like “Heaven,” “When You Love Someone” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.”

“Summer of ’69” was — no surprise — a true stand out, with the smiles on the faces in the crowd saying everything you need to know about how clearly this particular song continues to resonate in the hearts of fans.

Adams closed his winning main set with a topnotch version of the smash “Cuts Like a Knife” and then returned back to the stage for a solid two song encore of “Straight From the Heart” and “All for Love.”

About 3 1/2 hours earlier, Stewart took the stage with his Eurythmics Songbook: Sweet Dreams 40th Anniversary Tour and began the slow process of winning the Bryan Adams’ crowd over to his side.

The guitarist and his fabulous eight-piece all-female band kicked off the approximately one-hour set with “I Need a Man” — the first of 10 tunes they’d showcase from the songbook of the Eurythmics, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pop act that Stewart started with vocalist Annie Lennox at the dawn of the ’80s.

The music was sophisticated and meticulously refined — two trademarks of Stewart’s production work — and fell completely flat with the crowd early on. It was uncomfortably quiet, in an arena filled with thousands, during the breaks between the first few songs — which, in fairness to the fans, did go on way too long.

Yet, fans gradually began to get with the program — and on their feet — as the players latched onto such classic Eurythmics cuts as “Here Comes the Rain Again,” “Missionary Man” and, of course, the title track to 1983’s landmark “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Musically, the group sounded tremendous — with three main vocalists (including the great Judith Hill) taking turns handling the lines that Lennox originally made famous. It’s just that Stewart probably would’ve have been better served headlining a smaller venue, where he would’ve been greeted fondly by all Eurythmics fans, rather than signing on to do big arena dates as Adams’ opening act.

Bryan Adams setlist:

1. “Kick Ass”

2. “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”

3. “Somebody”

4. “18 til I Die”

5. “Please Forgive Me”

6. “Shine a Light”

7. “Room Service”

8. “Heaven”

9. “Go Down Rockin’”

10. “It’s Only Love”

11. “You Belong to Me”

12. “I’ve Been Looking for You”

13. “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You”

14. “I Will Always Return”

15. “Here I Am”

16. “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven”

17. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”

18. “Back to You”

19. “So Happy It Hurts”

20. “Run to You”

21. “Summer of ’69”

22. “What If There Were No Sides At All”

23. “When You’re Gone”

24. “Lonely Nights”

25. “Cloud Number Nine”

26. “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?”

27. “Cuts Like a Knife”

Encore:

28. “Straight From the Heart”

29. “All for Love”

Dave Stewart setlist:

1. “I Need a Man”

2. “Love Is a Stranger”

3. “The Miracle of Love”

4. “There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)”

5. “I Love You Like a Ball and Chain”

6. “Here Comes the Rain Again”

7. “Would I Lie to You?”

8. “Missionary Man”

9. “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”

10. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

 

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