In the 7th century AD, Chinese scholar Xuanzang travelled to India along the Silk Route. In 2018, Bryan Adams embarked on his Ultimate India Tour – traveling through Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi – in what can only be called the Biriyani Route.
At the risk of being called out as ‘uncool’, I am not a fan of attending concerts. I don’t get the point of standing in long lines, waiting for hours, going through disappointing opening acts, and then being fleeced over beer, food and water. With a Diploma Course from the Jeetendra School of Dancing, there isn’t much I can do at a concert. In this age and surrounded by this level of technology, the experience I prefer is the one in front of my screen, connected to my earphones.
But it was a free pass. I usually cannot say ‘No’ to free stuff. I got my pass, Got a free pass, jogged along my memories of Bryan Adams, and decided to attend. If I were being completely honest – there are only two songs of his that I can recognise. Please forgive me – whose lyrics I learnt to impress a crush. It’s a different matter that when I sang it, I sounded like Shankar Mahadevan at a Carnatic Concert.
Then there is Summer of 69, which I heard due to peer pressure. Mind you, this was in 2002, a good 15 years after the song had released. Since it was the third English album I was listening to – after Titanic and Spice Girls – it took me some time to get used to the lyrics. They had to be searched for on Internet Explorer, printed out at a Sify Infoway, and tucked away carefully in an Accountancy notebook.
It wasn’t my first Bryan Adams concert either. I had attended his Hyderabad concert in 2011. The Times of India reported that the event was a ‘surreal’ affair – and I remember seeing a family next to me eating biriyani through the concert. In India, we don’t do moshpits, we pass the raita and squeeze the lemon. (You can read my account of the 2011 concert here, and sample my amateurish writing from back in the day!)
Seven years down the line, I was curious to see how the 58-year old Bryan Adams had aged.
I checked out his social media. His Twitter feed is a series of one-sided updates about his shows, or pictures at different places. He rarely replies to comments, and the feel of the account is like that of a Principal’s notice board – official, routinely updated, no-nonsense.
It was on Instagram that I found something unique. He shares pictures of himself singing, doing Yoga, and promoting vegetarianism. He dedicates songs to his listeners, performs around the world, collaborates with others artists. Amidst the angry, ugly space that social media today is, his Insta feed is an oasis of people sending heartfelt messages.
I was also intrigued to find out the kind of reputation Adams enjoys today. When I asked my lady (who’s much younger – but infinitely more mature in the ways of the world – if she’d like to go to the concert, she replied ‘I’m not that gay yet’.
I have an inexplicable curiosity to know how singers have aged, and have spent hours watching live videos of 90s singers like Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu. (If you’re interested – Abhijeet still can sing, Udit Narayan holds himself up well at 62, Sonu Nigam is still impeccable, and Kumar Sanu has lost it!). Naturally, I wanted to see how Adams had aged.
He still can sing – I’ll give him that. There was no sign of his age in his voice, and he looked like he didn’t have a shred of fat in his body. His frame hasn’t gone through an unrecognisable transformation like with someone like David Gilmour.
Perhaps it is the fact that he still looks and sounds the same – it is the illusion of youth that his fans reveled in.
For this wasn’t your typical crowd at a rock concert.
Bryan Adams’ target audience isn’t youngsters who headbang. The average age was upwards of 30, going up all the way to the 60s. These were not youngsters in black T-shirts and long hair who slammed into each other and crow-surfed at concerts. They were middle-aged people who sat at tables and ordered beer, and gently swayed when Adams sang their favourite songs.
Some of them brought kids with them, others came with their college friends, there were even a few single men who nodded to his songs with their legs crossed, like they were in the first row of The Hindu November Music Fest.
As a standup comedian, I knew that most performers leave the best for the last – in order to end on a high. I was under the impression that he would leave Summer of 69 for the end. I remember the rendition
But he probably sensed the low-energy levels of the audience and brought out the two songs I know in the middle of the concert – and sang them one after the other! As soon as the songs were done, I rushed back to the beer counter.
The other major difference was all the smartphones out in the air, recording the show. Must be a great feeling for the artist too – to see so many lights flashing in front of him! I recorded mine too. A friend called his sister in law as this song was her caller-tune.
More than the concert itself, the real fun was had at the beer counter. Filled with friends, beer and conversations, older people in black T-shirts nodded their heads and laughed as they sipped on beer.
We met old friends, schoolmates and laughed about concerts we had attended earlier. I heard stories of a Metallica concert in Delhi, where the band was 20 minutes late. The crowd made the stage a slosh-pit and somebody ran away with Lars Ulrich’s drums! The crowd then proceeded to break the equipment, as the crowd cheered.
Another friend mentioned the 2011 Hyderabad concert, where the organisers decided to promote the film Faltu as an opening act for Bryan Adams. Arshad Warsi came on the stage and tried to get the crowd excited by screaming FALTU FALTU FALTU! In a few moments, thousands of Hyderabadis screamed in unison – FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU.
I haven’t attended too many concerts, to be honest. My favourite ones would be one by Indian Ocean in Bhubaneswar, where the crowd asked the band to sing ‘Jai Ho’. To which Rahul Ram replied with the iconic Govinda line, ‘Agar hum Rahman ka gaana gaaenge, toh Rahman kya gaaega?’. The other favourite of mine is a Remember Shakti concert at the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, where a nearby baaraat ended up giving us a ‘One plus one free’ concert. It was surreal to hear the band, and Munni Badnaam Hui at the same time – like taking acid in a Mathematics class.
Bryan Adams doesn’t rouse the crowd too much, going about his work like a disciplined senior VP in a multinational company. He finished a song, and introduced a member of his band. The need for crowd-play never presented itself. He finished one song, smiled, and proceeded to the next. The crowd did not scream their voices hoarse; they smiled, clicked pictures, raised their tired hands, and went back to sipping on beer.
What makes Bryan Adams draw huge crowds today, is probably the fact that others from that generation have vanished. The Backstreet Boys didn’t grow into Uptown Men. Michael Never Learnt to Rock. But Bryan Adams still looks and sounds like Bryan Adams – an emotion that is frozen, that hasn’t been romanticised by sepia-coloured hashtags. He’s still singing about how everything he does, he does it for her.
The concert ended, and the disciplined, middle-aged crowd left the ground in lines. A few took pictures, while others began to walk to their cars. The next day was a Sunday, and people had to take rest before office the next day.
Unfortunately, they did not live in the summer of 69. As she stood on her mama’s porch, telling that she’d wait forever.
But they had been there briefly.
(Featured Image courtesy: The Hans India, Hyderabad Edition. )