"Try to make this song on your fucking iPhone," Adams snarked two-thirds through the set, not quite unhinged, but relishing the opportunity for a rockist, anti-EDM micro-rant. "This song is not going to match the robot music over there… It's like we're living in a fucking Terminator nightmare!" he declared, before admitting he actually liked the Terminator series and commencing the heartfelt Heartbreaker say-goodbye-to-the South slow jam "Oh My Sweet Carolina."
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Adams' crowd -- modest for a festival closer -- was delighted, as clearly every attendee remaining on Randall's Island who preferred Hammond organ to bass drops was in his company. And those fans left satisfied, treated to a performance drenched in Adams' idiosyncrasies. It all could have made for a solid Levi's ad: Adams and his band decked out in weathered denim and repping a spectrum of pre-1990 Americana signifiers, from the vintage Pacman-era video games that adorned the stage to the Neil Young licks.
Touring behind the electric, full-band model, Adams got to veer from acoustic alt-country to sprawling heartland rawk. He and his four-piece band jammed out Cold Roses cuts "Peaceful Valley" and "Magnolia Mountain" long past their recorded runtimes and performed Gold's "Nobody Girl," which clocked in at almost 10 minutes in the studio. When he wasn't testing the patience of the less improv-inclined, he did prove himself as a master of the concise, all-American rock song, opening with 2014 single "Gimmie Something Good" and, of course, bringing the crowd to a sentimental peak with "New York, New York."
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On the topic of New York nostalgia, Adams did the Governors Ball crowd well. The North Carolina native wrapped "New York, New York" with a little ramble about how he used to live on Second Avenue and Eighth Street and wrote "I See Monsters" after drinking a lot of Robitussin and feeling overwhelmed by all the racket outside. On a similarly druggy note, he prefaced "Cold Roses" by saying it was inspired by living in New York, "when I was going so fast I started slowing down."
With no Bryan Adams-related hecklers to ad lib a song about, Adams resorted to a vocal front row fan eating a hot dog. He's made a career out of writing more albums than his labels know what to do with, so why not pull a song out of thin air with the chorus, "Put your hands in the air if you had a hot dog tonight"? Because he's Ryan Adams, that's why. And if he's going to be a grumpy rockist who doesn't understand these kids with their EDM and neon tank tops, then so be it.
Here is the set list from Ryan Adams' show:
1. Gimmie Something Good
2. Let It Ride
3. Stay With Me
4. Dirty Rain
5. This House Is Not For Sale
6. Dear Chicago
7. Magnolia Mountain
8. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
9. Peaceful Valley
10. Nobody Girl
12. Oh My Sweet Carolina
13. Cold Roses
14. Shakedown on 9th Street
15. When the Stars Go Blue
16. New York, New York
17. I See Monsters
18. Hot Dog Song
19. Come Pick Me Up