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Ryan Adams live at Bridgewater Hall

“ABOUT F***ING TIME, RYAN!” is one man’s welcome to our host this evening. As the heckler’s seat is in the heavens, he sounds more like God.

Published on April 24th 2006.

Ryan Adams live at Bridgewater Hall

Ryan Adams decides that whipsering to guitars is way more fun than playing them...

“ABOUT F***ING TIME, RYAN!” is one man’s welcome to our host this evening. As the heckler’s seat is in the heavens, he sounds more like God. Ryan, ignoring the call, waves nervously, sits idly at his piano, flicks through a red songbook, and blows his nose into his sleeve…

If we can pause for a moment and skip back to 2005; we can again marvel that Mr Adams released three fantastic albums that year; Cold Roses (a double album), Jacksonville City Nights with his band The Cardinals, and 29 his first solo album proper since the sublime Love Is Hell. This makes Ryan Adams the musical equivalent of Bill Gates; (you’ll have to go with this…) they say that if Bill Gates dropped £20,000 out of his back pocket, he’d probably lose more money by stopping to picking it up, than continuing to his destination. In this respect, if you were to follow Ryan Adams around, you could probably catch a discarded, heartfelt slice of melancholic brilliance and pass it off as your own...

Back in 2006, Ryan Adams is talking to his guitar. Whispering sweet-inaudible-nothings in the voice of Elmo. Some of the audience giggle, others gets restless. He hunches over his piano and plays a handful of breathtaking songs, including 29’s beautiful Night Birds with the chorus “We were supposed to rise above, but we sink, into the ocean…”. Afterwards, Ryan says he’s not going to play many songs you’ll know, instead, he wants to play some new songs he’s written. He explains that he wants to dwindle his popularity down so he doesn’t have to play anymore. Again, people laugh, others just squirm in their seats.

The second half of the evening takes a turn for the surreal, as Ryan Adams becomes increasingly restless and indulgent; waffling on about Eastenders, F.R.I.E.N.D.S., the importance of the symbol to metal-drummers, and just how ‘miserable’ his songs are... he stares endlessly at his songbook and can’t think of anything to play. He eventually chooses a few songs, before announcing he doesn’t like them anymore. Adams attempts to gain composure by playing his version of Wonderwall, yet gets bored and fills the song with gibberish. He then decides to write a song onstage (a happy one) and then moves off to another… someone sneezes, he stops playing to say ‘bless you’ and restarts the drunken-gibberish.

The bewildered giggles from the audience are taken as genuine laughs by Adams, as he decides to turn the evening from a gig into an peculiar comedy performance. One audience member screams: “JUST PLAY THE F***ING SONGS!!”. Ryan, a little taken aback explains that he’d have to ‘talk’ to break up his two and a half hour set-list of ‘monotonous, depressing bull-shit’, but many would simply prefer a little more ‘monotonous, depressing bull-shit’, please...

To bring back some focus; it’s important to remember that Ryan Adams is an astoundingly gifted songwriter; perhaps the most naturally gifted we have. His tender voice and lyrics, his troubadour persona, and his knack for melody and composition have given Adams an underground following of almost Dylan-esque proportions (Adams even opts for the ‘wretched’ harmonica on some songs); yet he has been plagued with accusations of megalomania, lack-of-focus and a reluctance to self-edit.

In the few moments tonight when he’s paying attention, his songs, his singing and his playing are breathtaking. Alas, Ryan Adams is Cleveland Junior from Family Guy, he’ll give you brilliance, if you can only get him to stand-still for five minutes.

If you’re interested in finding out more on Ryan Adams, visit his website here.

Stephen Fairbanks
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