Live Reviews

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Live

Brixton Academy

“Here’s another song about how well adjusted I am….and how happy I am….and how I’m so good at relationships…”

The Cardinals have been playing for over an hour and a half and the floodgates are well and truly open. Having started the show tight lipped and serious, Ryan Adams is sliding into sarcastic quips and retorts about his own state of mind. Just like his emotional, self pitying yet endearing blogs that he writes at night, only to delete the next morning- you can’t help but think that maybe all is not right with our favourite alt-country indie upstart.

In the last few years The Cardinals have gone from being Ryan Adam’s backing band to being so much more, and the sound bouncing off the walls of Brixton Academy on this cold winter night is so tight and honed that you could sit and listen to them jam all night (and given half the chance The Cardinals probably would jam all night). The tracks are written with enough space to let the guitars and bass ebb and flow around each other, building up into awesome crescendos of sound, as Chris ‘Space-Wolf’ Fenstein (bass) and Neal Casal and Ryan Adams on guitar feed off each other’s energy. Nowadays it’s as much as about the band members as it is about their front man.

They kick off proceedings with Cobwebs (off their new album ‘Cardinology), and from there they weave their way through a lengthy set list, with ‘Everybody Knows’ ‘Stars Go Blue’ and the stunning ‘Goodnight Rose’ all highlights of the first hour. Adams barely addresses the audience, his hair over his eyes, deep in concentration as he spits out the lyrics to ‘Fix It’ ” I know it’s not a game, but it feels like losing when someone you loves throws you away…”

The Cardinals’ sound meanders between country, rock, blues and indie – which is reflected in the crowd, which has everything from country music fans and dark eyed emo kids through to a plaid shirt clad indie crowd – Adams has mass appeal and lives up to his anti-hero status with nonchalance. There’s no denying it as he leans ocer his mic stand and twists the crowd round his finger- he has that certain something that makes him oh so watchable.

Neal Casal takes vocal lead on ‘Freeway to the Canyon’ but it’s the sublime rendition of ‘Come Pick Me Up‘ followed by the eerily beautiful cover of Wonderwall which gives you goose bumps. “Now, let’s enjoy yet more songs about fucking happy I am “Adams mutters, and laughs slightly manically, before sliding into the delicate, almost ethereal ‘Please Do Not Let Me Go“, taken from the aptly named’ Love Is Hell“. The lines “I’m all alone now, I can do as I please , I don’t feel like doing much of anything ..True love ain’t that hard to find not that you will ever know” and sung so sensitively that you can almost feel the waves of empathy rolling off the crowd.

‘Natural Ghost‘ spins across the Academy as the band slide into another Casal led jam, seamlessly rolling with thundering guitars and a pulsating rhythm forged from a band that’s one of the tightest on tour right now.

With a set lasting almost 2 and a half hours The Cardinals seem to have enjoyed the show as much as the audience, who are baying for an encore. As the last chords of a haunting ‘I See Monsters‘ brings the night to an end, it’s clear we’re seeing at his best musically wise – although the bantering story teller of old is missed.

Tonight Ryan Adams & The Cardinals perform a stunning show, tracks rolling seamlessly into one another, the new tracks just as memorable as the old favourites. The Cardinals have hit their stride in 2008, and with new tracks already being demo-ed for another album the future looks very promising indeed.

Dee Massey