From the opening moments of his concert at Los Angeles' Greek Theater on Friday night, as the clanging, drama-laden chords of "Trouble" rang out, Ryan Adams served notice to his eager audience that he and his four bandmates in The Shining intended to dish up plenty of sturdy, flannel-shirt guitar rock. Inevitably, he and we both knew, a good helping of gentler if also brilliant singer-songwriting would find a way to break the surface as well.
"Trouble" is from Adams' 2014's Ryan Adams, his first to be self-produced (with Mike Viola, also onstage with him on guitar) and his first self-titled album, which in sum was a declaration of independence -- from producers, from his sometime cerebral-poet history, from the recent sorrows of a divorce and the passing of his beloved grandmother. When he sang the opener's lines depicting "The lines on my face/ Like a map of my sins," the song's down-the-middle stylistic straddle -- part wounded confessional, part power ballad -- set the evening's tone.
The sound (and the amenities, under the recently installed SMG management firm) of the legendary open-air L.A. Parks Department venue were both excellent on this breezy, balmy Los Angeles night ("Playing my hometown!" exulted the raised-in-North-Carolina transplant in a tweet earlier in the day). When the fiercely chunky "Gimme Something Good," which had opened the Ryan Adams album, came next, the show was very close to Neil Young territory, as defined by Young's Crazy Horse and recent Promise of the Real aggregations. But Adams is too bursting with his own inspirations to be a true magpie -- however much his work may echo Young's six-string grit, Bob Dylan's elusive poesy, Gram Parsons' soulful alt-country, even the Eagles' harmonies (notably onstage on "When the Stars Go Blue"), all are sooner soul mates than influences.