Ryan Adams is going through a bit of a change. Like Cat Power, he's wearing a newfound sobriety on his sleeve, and thus throwing his world for a loop: a mid-life crisis, before hitting mid-life.
Ryan Adams is going through a bit of a change. Like Cat Power, he's wearing a newfound sobriety on his sleeve, and thus throwing his world for a loop: a mid-life crisis, before hitting mid-life. And although Adams' relationship with his audience, his personal life, and silly feuds with rock critics have all been well documented, that was the Adams of the past, one who played out his emotions in the studio, on stage and with a bottle.
Tonight's performance was different. There was no bottle of wine on the piano, or haze of cigarette smoke. That tortured artist-meets-country'n'western look was ditched in favor of shiny black KISS boots, skin-tight jeans and a Black Sabbath t-shirt. His hair was pulled up into an above-the-head ponytail, and you could see faint hints of eye shadow behind the straggly stands. If ever there was a time that Adams was wrestling with a different identity, this was it. "Nice boots, Ryan" a heckler offered.
Tonight was the second night in a three-show run, promising "no repeats." He strolled confidently onstage and immediately started up the dense, meandering "What Sin." A newly arranged "Nobody Girl" followed after some guitar technical difficulties; it was a bit faster, with a country flair. A string of more mellow songs followed suit, the best being the slow and sad "Meadowlake Street."
For the second set, Adams channeled his inner-Grateful Dead, leading off with the "Cold Roses" tune "Easy Plateau," as he concentrated hard on his guitar licks. A slower, more bluesy version of "Firecracker" was welcomed by the crow, and Adams grew much more chatty between songs, offering up sarcastic responses to audience requests.
Ultimately, this is telling of the current state of Adams' followers: they feel they know him through his music and lyrics but are oblivious to his persona. And although his music can be deeply personal, Adams has never been a guy to take direction from anyone -- a beef his Whiskeytown band members had with him in the '90s.
As the show wound down, he closed with "Dear John," inviting up Norah Jones to join him on vocals. Jones fixated on Adams for every move, and, Adams sat there with his eyes closed. As much as they nailed it, it hardly garnered any emotion from the singer. But the closet Deadheads rejoiced when he chose the Garcia classic "Stella Blue" for the finale. It was throaty and passionate, and as the lyrics testify, it could be one last hint at the complex year he's had.
Here is Ryan Adams & the Cardinals' set list:
"Harder Now That It's Over"
"Freeway to the Canyon"
"Trouble on Wheels"