When I heard that Ryan Adams would be playing the Ryman auditorium, I was all over it. I know I know, there's the whole "Summmer of 69," "throw on the house lights" story from four years ago (FOUR years ago folks), but for those unfamiliar with
Nashville, the Ryman is sacred ground. Dubbed the "Mother Church of Country Music," the venue boasts unparalleled acoustics, a rich history, and character galore. Tonight was a sure thing.
Adams and the Cardinals hit the stage and delivered two non-stop hours of rockin', jammin', free-wheelin', heartfelt (and often heartbreaking) kicked-up country twang. Opening with "Peaceful Valley," Adams' yearning voice was stronger than ever as it pierced through the sold out crowd and off the oak pews that have been holding the asses of lucky listeners since 1892. As the show rolled on, it was clear that Adams has made the Cardinals an integral part of his performances. The comfort and reliability he has found with the Cardinals creates a freedom for improvisation within the songs, breathing new life into familiar favorites. Sure it's still Adams' show, but let it be known, this is a band.
Adams & Co. reeled through a set with highlights that included "Shakedown on 9th Street," "Let it Ride," "Dear Chicago," and a new tune named "Rip Off," whose line "It's too late for goodbyes/good morning, open your eyes" will be engrained in my head until Adams finds the time to record and release it. What amazes me most about Adams' shows is the diversity of his setlists. For an artist who is well known for continuously experimenting and reinventing himself musically through his album releases, he also goes above and beyond to keep his live performances fresh, making it interesting for both the fans as well as the band. By taking a quick look at the setlist from the previous night in Atlanta, there are only 4 songs that were repeated in Nashville - impressive when you consider he's playing sets of 20+ songs per night.
Adams seemed thoroughly pleased to be back at the Ryman, but similar to his past performances at the legendary venue, his return was not without incident. He is the only artist I know who has paying fans show up for the sole purpose of heckling him - who the fuck does that?! Between having a glass bottle flung at him from the fourth row and being flipped off and continuously taunted by a "fan" in the second row (causing him to stop and restart "Games"), this was just another night filled with the same bullshit Adams endures at virtually every show. It makes his rants and complaints all that more justifiable.
For a guy who finds more written about his personal life than his music, Ryan Adams sure as shit silences his critics with his live shows. Just watch out for the flying bottles.
August 1, 2006
"Shakedown on 9th St."
"A Kiss Before I Go"
"Let it Ride"
"Please Do Not Let Me Go"
"He's Gone" (dedicated to Jerry Garcia)
"Oh, My Sweet Carolina"
"Wish You Were Here"
"To Be Young"
by Ryan Harrington