ROCK / Not even star of his own band

THE TITLE of Bryan Adams' compilation album, So Far So Good, says a lot. Despite spending almost a third of 1991 at No 1 with '(Everything I Do) I Do it for You', Adams is still pretending a wheel could fall off any minute. His appearance at Wembley Arena was all about this strange contrast between phenomenal record sales and self-effacing blokedom.

If the first song, 'There'll Never be Another Tonight', recalled the euphoric banality of ITV's football theme, and the second, 'Heaven', amalgamates scarf-waving choruses from every platinum-selling American MOR ballad of the 1980s, these were cliches you had to get used to. Bryan Adams seldom surprises.

Casually dressed in white shirt and jeans, he fronted his five-piece band with all the personality of a roadie, an impression compounded when he bafflingly demanded the first of several ovations for the guy who worked the lights. To his left, meanwhile, guitarist Keith Scott gyrated and grimaced his way through solo after solo, regularly approaching the lip of the stage to pose to the front rows, while Adams held back. He's so nondescript he isn't even the star of his own band.

At over three hours, the show was clearly intended as Adams' riposte to Bruce Springsteen's mid-Seventies marathons. But his raucous, straining anthems were either trite and charmless ('Hey Honey, I'm Packin' You In'), or unconvincingly rebellious ('Kids Wanna Rock').

In his rambling links it became obvious that Adams' audience think he is a hilarious, even zany guy - which goes right against the common impression of him as a frowning blue-collar man. The only political note was his declared support for a whale sanctuary in the Antarctic. Sounding uncannily like Bob Newhart, he explained to the audience that the handful of opponents to this sanctuary included Grenada. An apology to any upset Grenadans followed.

Whales schmales. What the audience really wanted to hear was '(Everything I Do) I Do it for You'. Adams soon relented. Cigarette lighters were waved by people who don't even smoke. Noting, however, that for the unfortunate people at the back the Adams live experience was more a case of ('Everything I Do) I Do it 400 Yards Away', he and the band encored on a small stage in the middle of the Arena, banging out old rock 'n 'roll and blues tunes like Eddie Cochran's 'C'mon Everybody' and Willie Dixon's 'Little Red Rooster'. Now that was fun.

Unlike their fellow punk warriors The Damned, 999 and the UK Subs, the Buzzcocks remain fresh and vital, comfortable with their past and relevant to the punk-friendly present. Fronted by the extremely camp Pete Shelley and the extremely abrasive Steve Diggle, who now alternates lead vocals with Shelley, their Astoria show was a speedy blur of about 25 songs in 70 minutes.

For every nugget - 'Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' or 'Autonomy' - there's a new song like 'Smile' that has all the instant appeal of the Buzzcocks of 1978. By remaining apolitical they have never dated, clearly choosing to sing about teenage romance well into their thirties. Only 'Roll it Over', with its iffy chorus of 'aow, it's a political world', was a lapse, sounding more like their support band, These Animal Men.

Representing the so-called New Wave of New Wave, These Animal Men claim a direct link with the energy and disenchantment of 1977. Right now it still looks more like a fashion movement than a musical one. Songs like 'You're Not My Babylon' and 'Too Sussed' might sound amazing to anyone who's never heard the Sex Pistols' 'Holidays in the Sun', but These Animal Men, who used to have long hair and sound like The Wonder Stuff, are older than they claim.

Referring to such media scepticism, guitarist Hooligan snarled: 'Paul Weller loved Pete Townshend] Pete Townshend loved Chuck Berry] But we're not allowed to love anything]' The thing is, hanging around with a bunch of endearing oldsters like the Buzzcocks doesn't exactly reek of revolution. It just shows good taste.

(Photograph omitted)

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