Jesse MalinEdit this event
Something's a bit odd here. We've just just walked in to a music venue with no bag or body search, and there's no bomber-jacket bouncer in sight. A polite notice informs us that there will be an "interval" between the two acts, AND we may buy ice cream cartons from the foyer. I feel I'm on parole when a swanky black suited man with a torch shows us to our seats.
You can't fault Jesse Malin for his confidence. He comes breezing on to one of London's finest orchestral acoustic spaces as though he was the headliner, full of funny tales and wholesome playing. The songs from his Ryan Adams produced debut album are well-rounded affairs and it's true, he does resemble a young Dylan for his vitality, but he'd be better placed setting his stall out for another act who wouldn't place him in the shade quite so mercilessly.
A little boy lost then takes to the imposing stage. Ryan Adams looks around him, mutters "I shouldn't have had my hair cut. It's too fucking bright", then unwraps 'Oh My Sweet Carolina'. He's not completely alone in the wilderness, as an occasional extra guitarist and two women who share piano, violin, cello and vocals, frame his filigree. Then comes 'Tomorrow', dueted as the most gentle of lullabies. For this outing, the pain of loss that runs through it is a heart rending revelation, co-written as it was, with Adams' lover just before her death.
There seems to be a hefty weight on Ryan tonight and he is living the blues. I'd feel really sorry for the guy if he didn't sound so damn good. The normally rollicking 'To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)' has been pared down to a filthy, slow, southern blues guitar song which chases a witch-hunted voice across the stage, then kicks and spits on it. Adams is down tonight, but this mood of introspection is drawing out one of his finest vocal performances heard on record or otherwise. Fancy-pants venue or not, there's some weird chemistry at work here. Adams is essentially performing for himself and if anyone happens to break through to join where he is, it's on a one-to-one basis.
Both 'Dear Chicago' and 'You Will Always Be The Same' from 'Demolition' are performed with a familiar ease, spilling out as though freshly written and the rest of the tunes - all taken from 'Gold' and 'Heartbreaker' benefit from the pared down, raw readings.
For the second half, Adams seems more relaxed, apparently warming to the occasion, which signals that Ryan the entertainer is back in town; falling to ground in a surprising mock faint in the middle of one song, ruminating on the role of the kebab in British society and embarking on a rant regarding the commercial whoring of the Fett family in the Star Wars saga. He tells us he's in the middle of learning The Smiths'_ 'Asleep',_ promptly performing it only to stop midway. A solo piano version of Radiohead's_ 'Everything In Its Right Place'_ promises to be glorious but he forgets a line and collapses in laughter before wondering out loud if the "sucking lemons" line he forgot is the reason Thom Yorke squints. Ouch! He then apologises profusely, convinced he'll be sent to "_British hell_" now.
'When The Stars Go Blue' is followed by his own reading of 'Wonderwall' which if truth be known, was stolen from under his pillow one night by a pair of nefarious Manc brothers, so at home is it in his hands. The night closes with 'Come Pick Me Up' which as always is a celebration, but some irregular gig goers should have been restrained from clapping along in time, ice dance style.
With Ryan Adams, you never quite know what you're going to get. He's not always spot on, but you know whatever you get will always be straight from the hip.
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