It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Bryan Adams performed to a crowd of 70,000 at London's Wembley Stadium. Adams was in top form that summer night in 1996, and it didn't hurt that his multi-platinum album, 18 til I Die, had just reached Number 1 in the U.K.
To celebrate the anniversary, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Bryan Adams: Wembley Live 1996 on DVD October 14.
This incredible live performance is packed with Adams’ guitar-driven hits, including “Summer of ’69,” “Cuts Like a Knife,” "Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and “Run to You,” as well as a storming rendition of “It’s Only Love” featuring Melissa Etheridge.
I recently spoke with Adams about the new DVD, his time working with producer Mutt Lange, his gear and more.
Other than it being the 20th anniversary, what made you decide to release this performance on DVD?
Fans were asking for it. I kept saying there was no film, but then I discovered a box of tapes in my basement and remembered I had filmed it. I’d just forgotten.
What made this particular show so special?
After touring for so many years around the world, this was the high point for all of the songs and albums I’d released in the Eighties and Nineties.
What’s it like to perform at such a high level at Wembley?
It’s so hard to describe now after so long, but it was certainly daunting and quite unbelievable. In the end, your senses take over on gigs and you just get on with it. But walking out there was incredible, and leaving the stage even more so.
What was the vibe like in the band at that point of your career?
The band was in top spirits. We’d been playing a lot of other music on our “b-stage,” so we were not drawn to doing the same songs every night. There’s a Japanese bootleg somewhere out there that has 40 or 50 different cover songs that had been recorded by fans and compiled onto a CD. The quality is poor, but the collection is outstanding.
You released Waking Up the Neighbors 25 years ago. What are your fondest memories of that time?
Going in, I had no idea what was going to happen, as it was so “produced” compared to my previous albums. The best thing was I knew I was in good hands with Mutt Lange. We were very like-minded about making a great record, so we didn’t care how long it was going to take. It just had to be a good one.
What was it like working with Mutt? Any interesting stories?
So many. But one of my favorites was when he made me sing a particular song for an entire afternoon. Since it was only he and I in the studio, we never bothered to check if the microphone was blown or not—and it wasn’t until I got fed up being told I sounded like shit that I questioned the mic. The microphone was fried [laughs].
Was there a particular way you and Mutt approached setting up and recording guitars?
Yes. I had a box that split the feed into two amps—my old Vox AC30 and a Marshall or Hiwatt with a 4x12 cabinet plus a direct into the board. We’d just move mics around until we found the sweet spot and then balance that with the next amp until it sounded right. I had a Pete Cornish treble booster on top of that, or sometimes an Ibanez Tube Screamer depending on the track. It was all pretty straightforward.
Can you tell me the origin of the song, “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”?
As I recall, it was Mutt’s chorus and it needed a verse, which I came up with after he played it for me. I think that was the song with the broken microphone on the vocal, by the way!
What’s your current live set-up like? Is there a particular guitar/amp/pedal combination you prefer?
It’s actually the same concept as my recordings: two amps with a feed to a booster box inside a Pete Cornish rig. My amps are still a Vox AC30 and Marshall, and I have a booster, a treble booster and a Maxon Auto Wah AF-9 on a couple of songs.
What do you love most about your Gibson ES-295?
Where do I start? I love everything about my ES-295, but particularly the P90 pickups. Just when you thought you couldn’t get a better sound, you plug this baby in and you’re good to go.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, a musical adaptation of the film Pretty Woman. It's scheduled to go to Broadway in the summer of 2018.
Have you ever given thought to writing a book about your life and career?
Occasionally, but if I’m honest, I’ve forgotten great swathes of my life—especially the Nineties. And it’s not because I have dementia or anything medical, but because I’ve worked so hard on tour that I simply can’t remember anything. Thank goodness I have this Wembley film and Andrew Catlin’s photographs, otherwise I would never have been able to describe the moment to you other than to say it was a big one!
Photo: Andre W. Catlin
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.