Treating us mean to keep us keen Ryan Adams didn’t disappoint Getintothis’ Emma Walsh, not that he’d have given a shit if he did. We respect that.
It felt a little prophetic to finally see Ryan Adams in the flesh.
For some years now we’ve carried a bit of torch for the North Carolina singer and we’re beholden to him for providing solid ‘go to’ albums when we were trying to impress hunky music types. We’d go so far as to say that Adams has been something of a spiritual wingman for us over the years.
Because there are two types of people in this world: People who a) love and adore Ryan Adams, and b) assume you’ve mispronounced Bryan Adams and are too polite to correct/ridicule you for admitting to a).
At a very clammy Mountford Hall on Sunday night there were many of column a). Many, many, sweaty beings packed into the Guild, which despite having undergone huge renovations last year, failed to install any air con. (FYI, HUGE oversight that lads – a fainter later in the evening was to be collectively exalted for causing the side doors to be opened, admitting a rejuvenating breeze). But even the heady perspiration couldn’t dampen the spirits of the legion of fans in Ryan Adams tees, comparing notes on gigs and records, practically vibrating with excitement as the lights finally dimmed and the man himself entered stage right, dressed, it appeared, as the token emo kid at high school.
Opening with Gimme Something Good and Let it Ride, it was straight down to business with Adams. Despite all the fantastic distractions of Arcade Games and giant stuffed tiger toys on stage, Adams cut quite the sombre figure all in black with his heavy fringe resting on the microphone. But contrary to appearances, he seemed to be in high spirits, addressing the rowdy crowd as he introduced This House is not for Sale.
Adams can be quite introverted at times, giving his performance an infectious intensity. Running rings with a spirited solo off the back of Everybody Knows he practically bent backwards into a distorted yoga position, quite literally turning in on himself. There can be a sense of self-satisfaction with Ryan Adams’ live shows, the crowd, however enthusiastic, often seemed inconsequential to his performance, at times even a nuisance.
Treading lightly with an acoustic New York, New York, Adams seemed to soften almost to a whisper at the initial roar of approval from the more vocal corners of the crowd, pushing them back into quiet reverence.
Yet a moment later he paused an intro to reassure the audience they needn’t “make the snake sound” and shush the venue into silence, because then “people will talk more ’cause they think there’s snakes all over the ground and everyone’s gonna think Indianna Jones is in here“.
Enduring heckles, however affectionate at times (“I love you“, “Well I love somebody else“), Adams’ sharp, dry wit cut through several calls from the rambunctious audience. The particularly odd declaration “I am the black wizard” barely fazed Adams, sympathising straight off the bat: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility“.
However, toward the end, his patience clearly shot and patrons keen to hear their favourites, Adams met hollered song requests with a stern tongue, informing the crowd they might as well have been shouting orders of fries and burgers at a waiter in a restaurant.
He assured us that whatever he was going to sing next would be sung with feeling and we could be safe in the knowledge he’d put a lot into it. A fair point from a singer songwriter who spills heart and soul into every track only to have one or another favoured by the rest of the world. They are all his babies after all. It’s almost sweet. That said there were several personal favourites we were waiting patiently to croon along to ourselves. Answering Bell, So Alive, 1974, and no Stars Go Blue – come on Ryan!
However we were treated to magical, virtuoso solos to Peaceful Valley and the entrancing I See Monsters, a wonderful cover of support act Natalie Prass of whom we’d caught a fleeting note on arrival (apparently they both rub each other’s egos with covers on the tour), and she joined Adams and the band on stage to provide beautiful harmonies on Oh My Sweet Carolina and closer Come Pick Me Up.
As the crowd dispersed, comparing personal post match analysis, some could be overheard testifying to the gig’s splendour as the best they’d seen him do, others claiming the exact opposite. Suppose you can’t please everyone, and if anyone was going to try, it certainly wouldn’t be Ryan Adams.
Photos by Getintothis’ John Johnson: