It may be an unusual sight seeing two traditional style arcade machines, a large American flag emblazoned with a Peace logo and a stuffed animal in and amongst the musical instruments; but when it is for American troubadour Ryan Adams and the four side-men who have lined up beside him for the opening night of their European tour – it does on least a few levels make perfect sense.
There has and always will be something deeply rooted in Adams music – if you could cut it up and study it’s DNA it would jump back and tell you that it was proudly American.
But for an artist that release albums almost as often as Real Madrid win trophies it, it is not terribly surprising that he receives the occasional bit of criticism for employing a workmanlike approach or / and supplying quantity over quality but tonight in this horseshoe shaped room and during a 100 odd minute performance he demonstrated that sometimes it is possible for both to go hand in hand with each other.
Tonight he and his band sailed through a set that showed the many sides of his work. The pent up, rock hardened opener of ‘Gimme Me Something Good’ with its chugging riffs and which at times nears comparison to that of his near famous namesake may have made sure that the night began with a hard hitting and direct start but tonight there was also a lot offered that countered this primal rock incarnation. Lighter moments where introspection glides to the surface and becomes the main focus – such as the moment that the other musicians disappear off stage and he is left alone with an acoustic guitar for a heart-wrenching performance of ‘Wrecking Ball’.
The intimacy fully disappearing and replaced with a series of “whoops” when the opening few bars of ‘New York, New York’ are aired, the song that originally saw this now fully seasoned performer first grab large scale public attention before the atmosphere once again quietened and sailed faultlessly through to the intricate folk groove of main set closer ‘I See Monsters’.
Often talkative with words mostly in jest it was when a shout came crying out of the upper auditorium at the beginning of the encore that led to one of the nights most memorable moments. Mishearing what was said; it saw him sidetrack into a small instant segment where a song about Indianna Jones was seamlessly improvised before the country tinged rock of ‘Come Pick Me Up’ fully closed the performance.
In all it was a set that showed how much he has grown as an artist; whilst others have resolutely stayed the same and found themselves slowly disappearing from public view, Adams has organically grown and found himself a dedicated cult following.
Words: Nathan Westley