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John Lamb, Published February 20 2010

Lamb: Great White Rock, eh?

When Bryan Adams takes the stage tonight at North Dakota State University’s Festival Concert Hall, even if the venue is sold out, it will be a step down from the worldwide audience he played to a week ago when Adams opened the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Still, any step back into the spotlight will be a step in the right direction.

From the mid-1980s to 2000, Adams was one of the biggest solo artists, racking up more than 20 top 10 hits and seven No. 1 songs like the ballads, “Heaven” and “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You,” and the rock anthem “Summer of ’69.”

Adams, a native of Kingston, Ont., is arguably the biggest rock singer/songwriters to come out of the Great White North since Neil Young. He was awarded the Order of Canada and inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Still, in the 21st century, Adams’ name is mentioned more for his fashion photography, his humanitarian work or for American singer/ songwriter Ryan Adams’ infamous stomping off stage when hecklers demanded he play “Summer of ’69.”

All too often, such is the fate of Canadian pop music – a punch line for American jokes.

Think about it. Paul Anka, the first Canadian to ever top the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for “Diana” in 1957, will never live down 1974’s “(You’re) Having My Baby,” voted the worst song of all time by CNN.com users in 2006.

(Interesting note: Bryan Adams also made noise with a song called “Diana” about the Princess of Wales that the British press found scandalous.)

Even Canada’s biggest act right now, Nickleback, is facing stiff competition from a Facebook campaign trying to recruit more fans for a pickle than the hard rock quartet, which plays the Fargodome May 27.

The Olympic opening ceremonies nod to Canadian pop music didn’t help. It was nice to see Sarah McLachlan do something other than appear in pet care commercials, but it didn’t sound much different. Singer k.d. lang did a good job with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but that song gets used more than that oversized suit of David Byrne’s she wore.

As for Adams and Nelly Furtado, well, they looked good performing “Bang the Drum.” They also looked like the performance was lip-synched. The song was written for the Olympics, but don’t count on it going gold.

Who knows if Adams will play it tonight, but he’ll likely bust out the gems that helped him break through with American audiences, like “Run to You” and “Cuts Like a Knife.”

I bet those songs still sound good in his new acoustic format, but they would’ve sounded better amped up at the Olympic opening ceremonies.

And that’s “Straight from the Heart.”

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

If you go

  • What: Bryan Adams

  • When: 8 tonight

  • Where: Festival Concert Hall, NDSU

  • Info: Tickets are $60 and $85. (800) 745-3000