Chuckling, Ryan Adams says to the crowd, “this is another slow song.” Anyone expecting anything different was probably in the wrong theater at the massive PlayhouseSquare complex. Adams’ shows are typically filled with slow(er/ish) tunes. If you don’t have feelings, Ryan’s songs might not affect you, but if songs can conjure up any of your emotions, you might even leave the theater in tears. This guy writes some sad ass songs that anyone who has been dumped or has dumped somebody can absolutely relate to.
Adams kicked off his show in Cleveland last night (Wednesday, 1.25.12) with “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” which includes the lyric – “so I went along to Cleveland/and I ended up insane” which drew a quiet roar from a generally (respectfully) quiet crowd that, a handful of hecklers aside, understood they were at an unplugged gig at an intimate theater as opposed to an arena rock show.
The title track from his 2011 masterpiece ‘Ashes and Fire’ was the first taste of Ryan’s new album, along with “Dirty Rain.” Also sprinkled in were a few other tracks from the record including album highlight, “Invisible Riverside.” Playing the first part of the set mostly sitting at his chair with a guitar and occasional harmonica, Adams did bounce over to the piano a few times for “Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)” and “Sylvia Plath,” the latter from 2001’s ‘Gold.’
Ryan’s stellar live performance was set on a bare bones stage with nothing but a few guitars, harmonicas, a piano, and a chair. The only thing missing from the ushers were those cute little “Quiet Please” signs the marshals at pro golf tournaments hold up while rich guys are hitting a little white ball around. (Author’s Note: I’m a golfer, so this makes a helluva lot more sense to me, but I digress.)
After a little guitar tech work of his own, à la moving his two guitars stage left along with his songbook and tea, he then informed all that this would be the “stand up portion of the show,” explaining his confusing behavior. One presumably intoxicated gentleman loudly suggested that Ryan hire a guitar tech, to which Adams replied, “I think I’m doing pretty good on my own,” a response that was met with applause.
To get an idea of a solo Ryan Adams show, well, you just have to see it to believe it. There are bound to be some hecklers, like the woman who yelled that her friend wanted him to “kick it up a notch,” to which Mr. Adams, known in the past for lashing out at such a request, playfully talked about it being a “RYAN ADAMS acoustic show!” He continued to rant about playing a crazy drum solo with clowns shooting each other from both sides of the stage, and finally declared that he’d love to, in fact, “kick it up a notch,” however, it’s just not going to happen. “Like, I want to see Slayer or AC/DC just pull out some f*^king acoustic guitars and rip,” but the reality of it is, it’s just not going to happen…so he then played “Rescue Blues” on the piano, quite brilliantly.
Leaning heavily on his latest release, the aforementioned ‘Ashes and Fire,’ as well as arguably his best solo album, 2000’s ‘Heartbreaker,’ Adams ripped through 21 actual songs as well as two made up tunes (one about his cat and the other about Danzig!?)
The new album’s first single “Lucky Now” got a great ovation and led to a string of hits including his cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and a slowed down piano take of ‘Gold’ hit “New York, New York.” A relatively lively version of “Crossed Out Name” got the crowd going for the home stretch, which included his latest single “Chains of Love,” and a Whiskeytown (Adams’ former band that disbanded in 2000) tune that he’s been playing this tour titled “16 Days.”
The always playful Adams informed the audience that he was going to play a quick two-minute song, then “disappear” from the stage like “Danzig or something,” then go backstage to his “gaggle of strippers,” like the big rock stars do, but not to worry, he’d return after a moment to finish up with his typical closing song, “Come Pick Me Up,” or as Ryan put it, “the song I tried to get all the curse words into.” After taking a final, very Danzig-like (not at all) rock star bow and thanking the audience, Ryan Adams did finally leave the stage for good, but not before thanking Cleveland for being a great audience.
A very intimate setting for a very intimate show and some of Ryan Adams’ most intimate songs, known for his outbursts he’s calmed over the years and taking things in stride, making fun of himself, having fun with the crowd and the heckling, and just making the night all about the music and having a good time, is what rock and roll is all about.