January 26, 2012

Ryan Adams - Strathmore - January 24, 2012

Ryan Adams is a guy everyone hates to love, his attitude problems so well publicized (mere mentions of Summer of '69 cause his spit to gather) and his image so opposite of Southern it even hurts to call him alt-country (although he was born and bred in NC).  His incessant self-loathing and slightly belabored banter made it even more difficult to love him Tuesday night at the hipster-packed solo Strathmore show.

I'm not sure if it's good or bad, then, that he's talented as hell, the strength of his voice surfacing in the first note of the setlist opener, Oh My Sweet Carolina.  And the loveliness of his voice shone through standouts like Firecracker and Everybody Knows, through the beloved Come Pick Me Up, even through a bare piano-backed rendition of New York, New York.

And yet, perhaps the show was a little too bare; it's nothing like seeing Adams with the Cardinals, for example.  As he hopped from piano, to guitar--seated, then standing--it became clear that this was a true singer-songwriter showcase, which meant it was a little slow, and a little long at almost 2.5 hours.  The appearance of opener Jason Isbell was welcome during the encore.  It added a dimension that had been lacking.

But damn, Adams' voice sounds better than before--did he quit smoking?  And after hearing an opener like Isbell followed-up by Adams, it's clear why one singer-songwriter is selling out venues, and one isn't.  While it takes guts for anyone to put their work out there, it takes true talent to be an economist with words, selecting the right ones and allowing for the music to speak for itself on occasion.  Isbell makes the mistake of choking his songs with lyrics, which Adams doesn't do.

One downside to what was primarily a good show: the girl next to us sang along the whole time, and was generally annoying (we get it, you are SO into this show--but if you know all the words, it's a little scary given the volume of albums Adams releases).  And Adams insisted on commenting on how the show featured slow, depressing songs, which only made a long show feel longer. Done

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