Live Reviews

Ryan Adams – Live

Hammersmith Apollo

It’s last chance saloon for Ryan Adams. His previous two London appearances have been lacklustre to say the least; the loveable idiot and unfairly talented entertainer replaced with a surly, serious and downright boring performer who set lists were almost as short as his fuse, and after angry outbursts in Shepherds Bush and a criminally short set at Koko, it’s with some reticence than we found our seats at the Hammersmith Apollo.

As it becoming the norm for Ryan, there’s no support act, and he slides onto stage with The Cardinals at 8.25, with a wry “Welcome to the rock n roll show”, and they’re off. Ryan is back on guitar, having injured his arm in the summer in a skateboarding accident, and takes centre stage, wearing an endearing green bobble hat and a smile as they slide into ‘Peaceful Valley’. ‘Beautiful Sorta‘ is just that, but the new version of ‘Rescue Blues‘ takes your breathe away.

Next for the evening is the sublime ‘Stars Go Blue‘, a bluesy take on the softly romantic piece as the backdrops of stars sparkles behind the band. ‘Off Broadway‘ follows, a rare live appearance from the Easy Tiger track, which was previously only heard on ‘The Suicide Handbook‘ just one of the many unreleased albums. From this effortlessly slides almost into bluegrass for Goodnight Rose. It’s this effortless meander between country, rock, blues and indie that gives Ryan Adams kudos. Through out it all he looks so achingly cool, leaning into his mic stand, with a sarcastic quip here and there, and a quick smile to the audience.

Neal Casal takes the lead vocals for ‘Freeway to The Canyon‘ which only highlights how much stronger Ryan’s vocals are as he leads the chorus. ‘Please Do Not Let Me Go‘ is enough to give you goosebumps, it’s what Ryan Adams does best. As he says himself as he leans against his piano “Let’s enjoy some more songs that are so depressing they make you want to kill yourself..” For some reason the audience has a large quota of hecklers tonight, and the cat calls demanding certain tracks and declaring love for Mr Adams become so annoying that Ryan ends up doing a less that flattering impression of them, which shuts them up for a while. A relaxed version of ‘Halloween Head‘ flows seamlessly into rare outing for ‘Wild Flowers‘. Tonight we have the Ryan Adams we feared we’d lost to sobriety, he jokes softly with the audience, tells a ridiculously piss taking story about Adam Levine from Maroon Five, before having a mock melt down on stage. He’s back to the old self-deprecating joker we know and love.

The emotive ‘Goodnight Hollywood Blvd‘ stirs the senses, before they kick off ‘Two’ which, although denounced by Ryan himself as whiney comes across beautifully tonight. John Graboff tells his joke of the night, and bass player Spacewolf gets his own birthday song, courtesy of Ryan, and it heralds a more upbeat feel to the proceedings. ‘A Kiss Before I Go‘, the rockabilly ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’ and the haunting ‘I See Monsters‘ end the set, and brings the audience to their feet and streaming down to the front for the encore.

‘Dear John’, ‘Blue Hotel’, ‘I Taught Myself To Grow Old’ and ‘Easy Plateau‘ bring out night to an end, over 2 and a half hours of stunningly performed, beautifully written material played back by the tightest band on tour. Ryan Adams and The Cardinals are breathtaking tonight, tracks roll seamlessly into one another, with new versions and ideas flowing out across the audience. Tonight we get a welcome reminder of just how talented Ryan Adams is. With a new Cardinals EP due for release this week, it seems that Ryan Adams is back where he belongs at the top of his game.

Dee Massey