Live Reviews

Ryan Adams – Live

And The Cardinals
Shepherds Bush Empire

There are few people who can get away with wearing a balaclava and cookie monster t- shirt and still look unbelievably cool, but Ryan Adams is one of those rare people. You could dress the man in a bin liner and he’d still pull it off somehow. On the first night of a sold out two night stand in Shepherds Bush, Ryan Adams has bought back his Cardinals for a long awaited band tour. With Adams it’s always a little hit and miss, you wonder if he’ll turn up slurring his words, telling wonderful endless tales, tailing off songs on a whim, or whether he’ll turn up at all.

Scheduled for a 9pm start, Adams saunters onto stage only 15 minutes late, a wry grin to the crowds and he’s off. ‘Please Do Not Let Me Go’ is hauntingly beautiful; the break to Adam’s voice catches the emotions. “I think my B string went to Burger King.” he shrugs as he retunes his guitar before a stunning, drawn out version of ‘Magnolia Mountain’ . Charming and unfairly talented, Adams has a certain charisma that no one really comes close to. We’re used to hearing his little tales on stage, but tonight the usual bottle of red wine is replaced by a red bull, and the usual cigarette hanging from him lips is absent.

‘Beautiful Sorta’ is just that, beautiful but with the ever present edge. Then it’s on with the balaclavas, for reasons..well I never quite caught the reason, but suddenly The Cardinals looks like 3 members of the IRA, apart from bassist Chris Feinstein who seems to have lucked out and gets stuck wearing a spaceman’s helmet, which he seems to have difficulty breathing in.

“Now its time for me to talk so you shut the fuck up or I’ll come down and sort you out”. Adams whips back to a heckler, “Or maybe I’ll just get someone to sort you out FOR me…” he adds grinning. And then he’s off on a tangent, the witty self-effacing artist we know and love. This time he’s singing the praises of McVities Cookies and their sleep inducing properties. He rambles for just a minute and then sighs “Now all the reviews are gonna be ‘ Oooh he talks too much’ “, which is met by pleas to just keep talking.

But the Adams we see tonight is very much more together than the swaying dreamer we saw a few months back, the sound is tight, maybe the months spent producing Willie Nelson’s new album have drummed some seriousness into him. The set is one hour, forty five minutes long without break, and there are plenty of new tracks showcased tonight, which unfortunately means less of our old favourites.

Tracks roll seamlessly into one another, an almost self indulgent jam on the stage. However despite the lack of old material, ‘Dear Chicago’ is beautifully put together and ‘Bartering Line’ is given an airing, a wonderfully angst driven and angry track. To top off the night it’s ‘The End’ which blends into a sublime rendition of an embellished ‘I See Monsters’.

Tonight Ryan Adams comes across as a professional, but it’s reassuring to see that the joker, the charmer, is still there, just underneath the surface. Whilst the music aficionados will rave that his performance when sober and controlled is a critical success, with Ryan Adams it’s the entire package which makes him such an enigmatic performer, and whilst it’s inspiring to see him so together, he doesn’t seem to be so happy-go-lucky as usual, and you can but hope he never loses that bohemian charm that inspires such a loyal following.

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Dee Massey