Why India Will Always Run to Bryan Adams


Why India Will Always Run to Bryan Adams

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Time to tune up your first real six-string, kids, because Bryan Adams just came to town. I wasn’t old enough to form clear memories of the first time he visited India in 1995, but it must have been a huge deal. The ’90s were a barren decade for fans of international music, at least as far as watching live acts went. The arrival in India of a superstar of Adams’ magnitude, at a time when he was ruling the charts, would have been as newsworthy as if Drake himself were to perform the Kiki challenge on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway today. If that sounds preposterous, then you’re beginning to get an idea of just how momentous, unprecedented, and exciting the occasion must have been, over two decades ago.

Until the mid-2000s, international acts rarely graced India with their presence. The guitar-slinging Canadian was like the first rain on a land parched for generations. With the sole exception of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in 1996, very few top-billed international artists made a stop on our shores in the ’90s. Even when they finally acknowledged their fanbases and added India to their tour dates in the next decade, it was often artists in the twilight of their careers. Roger Waters showed up with his lasers, but without Pink Floyd; when Metallica arrived it was during their creative nadir, by which I mean post St Anger; and Iron Maiden were already releasing “Best of…” compilations by the time they played their first show in Bangalore.

But Bryan Adams didn’t sell us short – he played in India at the height of his fame, and returned repeatedly, in 2001, 2003, 2006, and 2011.

Bryan Adams just brought his Ultimate tour to India, specifically to Mumbai, and it feels like life has come full circle. Over 20 years ago, Adams opened the floodgates for international acts to put on a show for their Indian fans.

This long and fruitful relationship with his Indian fans might explain the gravel-voiced singer’s longevity. He’s been in the business for nearly 40 years now, and is a household name for three generations of Indians. From the Walkman to the Discman, all the way to iPods and streaming, he’s been a fixture of every classic rock playlist worth its power chords. The soundtrack to my first crush was “Everything I Do… I Do it For You,” and you know I’m not alone. From wedding parties to school farewells, in every gathering of people intoxicated beyond a certain level comes a time when someone slips on “Summer of ’69”. It’ll be met by raised eyebrows at first, but I bet you my Aadhaar number that as that song builds, there’ll come a point where everyone in the room is triumphantly pumping their fists in the air and screaming, “Those were the BEST DAYS of my life!” Heck, we’ll do it even when the song’s crappy instrumental version is playing at a showroom in a mall.

As is clear by now, I’ve grown up with Bryan Adams. In between a mother who loved George Michael and a father rocking out to Bon Jovi, Adams was a happy middle ground where riffs met romance. During my school years, he was the quintessential rock star, and I saw him as such. I never got to see him during that time, when he visited in ’01 and ’03, because sending a 12-year-old to a rock concert was probably a little too cool for my parents. Sadly, by the time he returned, I had outgrown the music.

Teenage rebellion is a funny thing. You’re stubborn enough to turn your back on something you loved just to prove your individuality. So like every other kid that was “different”, I started listening to music that my parents couldn’t fathom. Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and others replaced the likes of Bryan Adams and The Eagles in the mid-2000s. So when Adams made his two most recent tours, in ’06 and 2011, I scoffed at it as “dad rock” and went on doing my thing. By then, artists catering to my changing tastes had begun visiting India, and with artists like Ensiferum and Machine Head to watch, I figured Adams was an easy miss.

Bryan Adams just brought his Ultimate tour to India, specifically to Mumbai, and it feels like life has come full circle. Over 20 years ago, Adams opened the floodgates for international acts to put on a show for their Indian fans. A bonafide rockstar who broke new ground for global entertainers. Sure, those who followed in his footsteps might have initially been over the hill, but unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that era is past. Multiple festivals held year round see some of the world’s best acts flock to India, and travelling popstars also add the country to their itinerary. So the news of Adams’ latest tour evokes a sense of bittersweet irony, with the trailblazer now pushing 60 himself.

I’m no longer the 12-year-old who couldn’t get permission to see his idol, nor am I the teenager who automatically equated dad rock with bad rock. Now, I don’t mind saying I wish I’d been old enough to attend that first, seminal Bryan Adams concert back in 1995, when the country got its first taste of what a global rock concert felt like. It was certainly the start of something special, and, like Bryan sings, “We can’t stop this thing we started.”