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When Ryan Adams last came to town back in June, he left one DiS reviewer “none the wiser as to whether we’ll ever see Ryan strap on an electric guitar again, hurl whiny expletives into the crowd, fall over and play two and a half hours of extraordinary rock music”.
As if emerging like Balboa from the meat freezer, Adams stands before us having ditched the suit and tie. Looking scruffy and messed-up, sporting a fetching green bobble tea cosy as headgear – this is more like the Ryan Adams we know and love - leering, kneeling,_ posering into the microphone as if trying to seduce Nancy Spungen with lips and rock-star lunges alone. The opener _‘Peaceful Valley’ - a rock ‘n’ roll, all-guns-blazing revamp of the hour-of-darkness Jacksonville City Nights number – slides seamlessly into the chugging honky tong blues riff of ‘Beautiful Sorta’ - he’s back, and he’s performing like the fuckin’ legend some doubters believed to be a thing of the past.
Never stop believing - one little thing any Ryan Adams fan should have learnt over the past seven years.
While The Cardinals have their detractors, their experience in contrasting between rock and subtler balladry, backing Adams up and not stealing the show, is evident. And having switched to upright piano, Adams unleashes his first glimpse of Gold material. ‘Rescue Blues’ through ‘Stars Go Blue’ (performed in front of a backdrop of blue glitzy lights) sound perfect. Jon Graboff’s plunging pedal steel line in the latter half of ‘Nightbirds’, alongside Adams’s subtle but piercing vocal, rekindles the intensity found on 29_ with class. And the effective vocal harmonies displayed on _‘Cold Roses’ show The Cardinals to be a class act. One surprise is how well the newer Easy Tiger material is being received by this crowd. Their applause spreads and ripples like wildfire, as if competing in the quest to be king of the ID, exercising authority over every riff at the beginning of every new song. A snappy ‘Goodnight Rose’ with instrumental interlude receives rapturous vocal appreciation alongside a soft-rock barroom version of ‘Halloweenhead’. However, re-working every other song in a similar vein doesn’t work and a similarly laid-back version of ‘Bartering Lines’ sticks out, saved only in the dying moments by the harmonious a cappella ending.
Up-‘til-now Adams has remained mute. No banter. But halfway through the evening he lightens up and begins to unveil all those hilarious inner random thoughts to the all-seated Apollo. Adam Levine cops some flack (always nice). Adams jokes about having so many number one records that they keep knocking one another off the top spot before Graboff fluffs the ‘joke of the day’ after hecklers get the better of his nervous system. He returns to his seat having realised that stand-up comedy is a lot harder than playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. The Cardinals family sing happy birthday to bassist ‘Spacewolf’ and it’s good vibes and group hugs all round.
And so the classics flood in thick and fast, like a dream of a set list. ‘Let It Ride’ arrives like a surprise party, ‘Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd’ provides what we expect to be a perfect ending, providing closure before the post-gig pint and analysis. Sure, we wouldn’t feel aggrieved if this were our lot - but it turns out there’s still another ten songs to go. The icing atop the cake of which is the fabulous ‘I See Monsters’ climaxing with a thrilling distorted, undulating end. Adams eventually leaves the stage some two and a half hours after arriving, following a slow burning version of ‘Easy Plateau’, the last of a whopping 29 songs littered across the fading yellow brick road. Whilst there was no falling over or whiny expletive - the one thing that mattered, was what we got - two and a half hours of extraordinary rock music. Never stop believing.
Set list (read it and weep... hard):
The Rescue Blues
When The Stars Go Blue
The Sun Also Sets
Let It Ride
Freeway To The Canyon (Neal Casal vocals)
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Why Do They Leave
Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd
You Don't See Me Crying (Neal Casal vocals)
A Kiss Before I Go
Shakedown on 9th St
I See Monsters
I Taught Myself How To Grow Old
Photo: Paer Kjellén
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