Forget the 'Summer of '69', for this was the summer of '96, when Canadian rocker, photographer, philanthropist and all-round nice guy, Bryan Adams, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium on 27th July, in front of a capacity crowd of 70,000+ punters for nearly two and a half hours of unpretentious rock revelry. And said show, two decades on, has finally made its way onto DVD. Personally, I've been a little indifferent to Adams' output over the years. I guess I've always acknowledged the man's ability to write and perform catchy rock tunes and sporadic power ballads, but I've never quite connected with his music in the same way that his millions of fans across the globe evidently have. I've been a casual listener, if you will... enjoying his music as and when the mood and general context has been right. So, when this turned up for review, a show chock-full of his hits up to this point in his career, I guess it's high time to revaluate my opinion of Adams' artistry.
After a no-frills stage entrance where the man and his band simply wander out in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans, with no intro music or fuss, the gruff-voiced rock legend, along with his band, reels off his back catalogue of hits and a small handful of covers in quick succession. They're all here - 'The Only Thing That Looks Good On You Is Me' (a silly title that still makes me cringe at its cheesiness); '18 'Til I Die' (a song I perennially associate with Steve Coogan's rendition as Alan Partridge a year after this concert, during the scene of his big plate scam in the first series of 'I'm Alan Partridge'); '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You' (a composition I learnt to hate ever so quickly upon its release after outstaying its welcome at the top of the UK charts for sixteen weeks)... you get the picture.
Well, I've surprised myself by just how much I've enjoyed 'Wembley 1996 Live'. Apart from inadvertent, inescapable blasts in pubs, clubs, shops etc, it's a long time since I've willingly listened to any of Adams' music, so this most definitely is something of a revelation. Even his once perpetually irritating anthem '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You' now sounds great to my ears (time is a wonderful healer, I guess). And I think the key to my enjoyment here is accepting the man's music for what it's generally supposed to be - fun! And this show was evidently all about musical merriment. There's even an impromptu karaoke session when he invites a guy from the audience up onto the stage to sing (atrociously) a few bars of 'Summer of '69', before sending him off over to the side of the stage for a beer. Melissa Etheridge also appears at one point, for a guest vocal spot on 'It's Only Love'.
I guess the one negative of this release is that it's about as barebones as they come. The disc's menu has a mere two options - 'Song Selection' and 'Play All'. No sound options for the audiophiles out there, and no bonus features for those who like to lap up extra content following a main feature. Nope, all we have is the 143 minutes of the show, with an acceptably resonant 2.0 Dolby Digital mix, and visuals that are of their time. The video peaks at nearly 9 Mbps, which is more than respectable for the DVD format, although don't expect any kind of sparkling picture quality. There's a reason this hasn't also been release on BD. Sure, it'd have a higher bit rate on Blu-ray, but there'd be little point as the source materials would still fall way too short of anything vaguely resembling an HD presentation. This looks every bit like a show shot twenty years ago, lacking sharpness and sheen in every frame. That said. there's enough clarity in close-ups... although the general stability of the image comes nowhere near the quality of newer concerts released on DVD. So, lower your expectations accordingly, and you won't be too disappointed by the explicably subpar picture quality. Oh, and it's presented in what I'm presuming is its original 4:3 aspect ratio. When this was shot/released, it was just before widescreen started to become more of a standard format, and at least it's nice to see that Eagle Rock Entertainment didn't succumb to cropping the video at 16:9 to please modern viewers.
A booklet is included in the package with photos from the show, and credits on the back page. Some liner notes might've been a nice addition but, again, this is a barebones edition in almost every aspect. I guess it's been deemed worthy enough of a release based on the merits of the show alone, with the expectation that Adams fans will snap this up regardless upon its release. And I'm certain that millions of peeps will be more than pleased to own this on DVD for the very first time.
WEMBLEY 1996 LIVE
Review by Mark Holmes
14th Oct 2016
1) The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You; 2) Do To You; 3) Kids Wanna Rock; 4) Can't Stop This Thing We Started; 5) This Time; 6) 18 'Til I Die; 7) Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?; 8) Touch the Hand; 9) Cuts Like a Knife; 10) It's Only Love; 11) Somebody; 12) (Everything I Do) I Do It For You; 13) Run To You; 14) There Will Never Be Another Tonight; 15) Seven Nights to Rock; 16) I Wanna Be Your Underwear; 17) Wild Thing; 18) It Ain't a Party (If You Can't Come 'Round); 19) She's Only Happy When She's Dancin'; 20) Summer of '69; 21) All For Love; 22) Let's Make a Night to Remember; 23) I Fought the Law; 24) Heaven
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...nearly two and a half hours of unpretentious rock revelry."