From pensive ballads to punk blasts, Ryan Adams shines at the Tower
When Ryan Adams took the stage last night at the Tower Theater, many fans in the area around me stood up ready for some rock n roll and dancing. The crowd immediately behind them began shouting “Sit down! Sit down!” For once in my life, I think the those sitting down may have had a point: this was not going to be a raucous night, but something a little more mellow.
Many songs of the set were from Adams’ latest, eponymous album: a work that not only demonstrates his assuredness as a musician and songwriter but also indicted to me that he’s been listening to a lot of Tom Petty lately. Tom Petty’s got some barn burners, for sure, but it’s not what I put on when I want to rock the hell out.
That is not to say the show was not impressive: Adams’ opening song “Give Me Something Good,” gave me goosebumps and his voice sounded incredible. He and his band then tore into some tunes from his days with the Cardinals, among them “Let it Ride,” a Dead-esque “Magnolia Mountain, ” and “A Kiss Before I Go.”
The band was definitely vibing and I caught a whiff of lit joints from somewhere in the audience at this point in the set. The lighting changed to show a night sky filled with stars to complete the motif. At this point I’m kind of wondering about these people still standing just when Adams announced that he was going to play some tunes from his monthly 7″ collection, which steers more towards the punk side of things. At the end of this three-song burst, Adams noticed a couple leaving and commented that the last song, “Rats in the Wall,” must have offended them.
Adams’ between song banter was jovial and silly. He had trouble hearing the excited shouts of admiration from the crowd and would repeat what he thought he heard with hilarious results. Towards the end of the show, he introduced the band while they riffed on the theme from “Halloween,” by John Carpenter and keyboardist Daniel Clarke took a solo that had a little more of a proggy “Halloween III” vibe which Adams was duly impressed with.
The only things that threw him were people in the front taking pictures with flash. Adams has Meniere’s disease which, as he put it, makes flashing bright lights feel like “a light saber is going through my brain,” causing dizziness and nausea. He was patient and downright apologetic with the first offender who didn’t have a flash but a camera with a blinking red light. But while playing “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” he had to stop for someone straight up using a flash and had to explain again that he was feeling pretty terrible in a more, shall we say, aggressive way. He then re-started the song as the audience cheered him on. Before his encore he apologized for getting upset which is more than what most musicians do in that situation whether they are in the right or in the wrong.
The show opener was Butch Walker, a singer-songwriter out of Georgia. He was an impressive musician, playing keyboards, then guitar and later added a kick drum to great effect. Ryan Adams is producing his upcoming album, being released in February. Walker’s banter was also witty, teasing that he and Adams met on Tinder and they right swiped each other. The crowd that was in the Theater enjoyed his set and he seemed to have a lot of fans already aware of his material, cheering at songs they recognized.
This tour is confirmation that Ryan Adams, like the aforementioned Tom Petty, is one of the elder statesmen of rock. Long gone is his reputation for being a cribber of others’ songs and an outsider and “weirdo.” He also didn’t need to play “the hits” to impress the crowd; he and his band had them from the first chord. They took the songs to epic levels and seamlessly covered every side of Adams’ discography from Americana to punk to blues to lonesome ballads. It was an intense two hours and made plain that Adams is up there with the great songwriters he looks up to.
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
Stay With Me
This House Is Not For Sale
Am I Safe
A Kiss Before I Go
My Wrecking Ball
When the Stars Go Blue
When the Summer Ends
Change Your Mind
Rats in the Wall
New York, New York
Oh My Sweet Carolina
La Cienega Just Smiled
Come Pick Me Up (ft. Butch Walker)