“We’d like to play a song we did with Tina Turner,” Bryan Adams tells a sweltering, near-capacity First Direct Arena, introducing It’s Only Love.
“In fact…” He turns to the side of stage and raises an arm, gesturing to the wings as drummer Mickey Curry plays a snare roll. After ten seconds, the Canadian singer-songwriter turns back to the microphone with a mischievous grin and shrugs. “She’s not here!” he deadpans to big belly-laughs.
For a musician with somewhat of a po-faced reputation, Adams’ sense of understated humour is ever-present at his first stop-off in Leeds since 2014. Before he even takes to the stage, a mock-serious background still of the 58-year-old periodically sparks to life, winking at the audience or snatching a fly with a forked tongue.
When he does, he star-jumps with long-time guitar foil Keith Scott, trading licks in mid-air; later, on The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me is You, the pair synchronise dance moves down the front, wagging their behinds to the delirious screams of middle-aged fans crowded at the barrier.
No stranger to British shores – this is his fourth full tour of the country in five years – Adams is here behind last autumn’s compilation Ultimate, one that showcases his role as both eighties hard-edged rocker and 90s-pop power-balladeer. He frontloads from the former; across an opening run of almost a dozen big guitar songs, only arms-aloft lighters-anthem Heaven comes unequipped with a chunky riff. A sonically searing Run to You and the rockabilly rambunctiousness of You Belong to Me hauls the crowd to their feet; a thrillingly writ-large Summer of ’69 keeps them dancing in the aisles.
The second half slows in comparison, anchored by more sedate fare; a gorgeous, stripped-back rendition of 2002’s Here I Am conjures chills, whilst synonymous schmaltz mega-hit Everything I Do (I Do it for You) leaves couples weeping and embracing. If less muscularly thrilling than the opening hour, Adams keeps the goodwill flowing deep into the encore; a rough-hewn take on I Fought the Law segues into a sandpaper-scuffed solo version of Whiskey in the Jar before a closing one-two of Straight from the Heart and All for Love, dedicated touchingly to his 90-year-old mother.
As the band play themselves off with Jersey Boys-style hand jives, they give the air of a well-worn residency fixture; as feature attractions go, Adams is one well worth coming back to.