Despite a colorful history of crowd-baiting and drunken narcissism, Ryan Adams has (for the time being, anyway) put aside his notorious ego to tour under the name of his current band, the Cardinals.
A few replacements aside, the lineup of guitarist Neal Casal, drummer Brad Pemberton, bassist Chris Feinstein and pedal steel player Jon Graboff has been more or less steady for the past three years (and as many albums; additionally, a new album, Cardinology, is due October 28 on Lost Highway). With the Cardinals, Adams has finally found a group with which he is in creative and collaborative lockstep as he jams down the road from Nashville country to Muscle Shoals soul.
The Cards started the night with “Cobwebs,” the first of several new, highly refined and pop-leaning songs they previewed. But over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour, 27-song set, the band delved deep into Adams’ solo catalogue, digging up plenty of gems to satiate the loudly enthusiastic, mostly seated crowd.
(Amazing fan-video of "Wonderwall")
From the Grateful Dead jamminess of Easy Tiger’s “Goodnight Rose” to the riveting Diddley beat given to Heartbreaker’s “Shakedown on 9th Street,” the band consistently knocked our collective socks off with their musicianship while giving sly nods to the songs’ classic rock roots.
Particular highlights were the heavily countrified Jacksonville City Nights cut “The End,” which sounded like it could have been a Gram Parsons original, and the title track to 2005’s Cold Roses, which dabbled in groovy Jerry Garcia-styled leads and reggae verses, and stately harmonies from Casal. With a description like that, “Cold Roses” sounds like it should have been a total mess, but it came off beautifully and to rapturous applause. Even the cover of “Wonderwall,” dedicated to their English friends Oasis with whom they toured earlier this summer (and will be again later this year), was unexpectedly touching and soulful.
"The Sun Also Sets":
Adams, in his Sylvester and Tweety Bird T-shirt and sporting messy hair, stood in stark contrast to the Byzantine grandeur of the Fox. But Adams thrives on his own sense of informality, chumming it up with between-song banter about nachos and ninjas as if he was playing an intimate basement show rather than at a vast theater. He even teased the audience about our indecisiveness over the sit vs. stand decorum, suggesting that our legs might react uncontrollably to the song they were about to play next, “Magick,” a new two-minute romper packed with Gary Glitter drums and Jack White guitars that quickly got people’s hips shaking.
The strangest thing about the evening, aside from the inebriated gentleman a few rows behind me who was obligated to issue a blood-curdling “Woo-hoo!” during even the gentlest moments of the performance, was the additional microphone stand Adams had installed near the drums. The purpose of this mic, it seemed, was to allow Adams an off-air pipeline to persistently complain to the sound guy about the levels, even though everything sounded great from where I was sitting.
I suppose such perfectionism comes with the territory. Because underneath the boyish and capricious demeanor Adams displays, there lies a focused and determined performer who, in his own mind and in the eyes of his dedicated fans, is one of the great songwriters of our day.
1. Cobwebs 2. Everybody Knows 3. Come Pick Me Up 4. Wonderwall 5. Fix It 6. La Cienega Just Smiled 7. Goodnight Rose 8. Sun Also Sets 9. Oh My God, Whatever, Etc. 10. Rescue Blues 11. Magick 12. Desire 13. Let It Ride 14. Peaceful Valley 14.5 "Oh shit, my guitar is out of tune"/Sonic Youth "jam"
15. Crossed-Out Name 16. Afraid Not Scared 17. Bartering Lines 18. Love Is Hell 19. Shakedown on 9th Street 20. Natural Ghost 21. Two 22. Sinking Ship 23. How Do You Keep Love Alive 24. The End 25. Off Broadway 26. Cold Roses 27. I See Monsters
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