Bryan Adams didn't know he had a following in Pakistan until his debut performance at Karachi's Arabian Sea Country Club pulled in more than 10,000 fans. Most had travelled 40 kilometres from Karachi to witness, on Sunday, Pakistan's first international celebrity music concert in recent history.
The benefit concert was a fundraiser for schools in Pakistan's earthquake-affected regions. But to most Pakistanis, it symbolized an openness for which the country's more secular elite has hungered.
Halfway through, Adams called out for someone in the audience to join him in singing the hit single, When You're Gone. From the hundreds of excited fans who threw up their hands, for a chance to share the mike with the singer, whose popularity penetrates the middle and upper middle class segments of Pakistani youth. Adams chose Atika, a bubbly high-school teenager, and when the song was done, he hugged her tight and lifted her. In any other venue, the scene would have been ordinary. But in Pakistan, a country that has been in the news primarily for its connection to growing Islamist extremism, the moment seemed extraordinary.
Part of the magic on Sunday night was Adams's music selection. Adams sang only two songs from his latest album; otherwise, he sang the songs his audience knew best -- hits such as Summer of '69, Run to You and (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. Lit-up mobile phones and burning lighters swayed to the tune as excited concertgoers sang along. "Music has brought us together," said Adams to a roaring crowd at the show's end.