October 10, 2011
Better than:...the sum total of every single stand-up comedy show concurrently happening in the greater Los Angeles metro area.
"How L.A. is it that you can see a concert in a funeral home...in a Masonic lodge...and get high on the way there?" Ryan Adams quipped last night.
In fact, beforehand I told about ten people familiar with the guy's work that I was seeing him in a graveyard, and maybe half joked about him playing to type. Another four speculated that he was making fun of the cliche of him playing in graveyard by actually doing it. The final person just wanted to talk about how Mandy Moore was never given a fair shake during the height of the teen-pop era.
All in all, the lengths to which everyone really seemed to care made it so hard to believe that Ryan Adams could be seen as someone who's alienated his fan base. Fortunately, even with his new LP Ashes & Fire due out the next day on Capitol/Pax-AM, you could shut out all of the critical talking points and just enjoy the fact that he can effortlessly fill about two and a half hours worth of top-shelf material in a live setting.
First and foremost, this having been my first time seeing Adams in at least five years, what initially struck me about him as a live performer is the same thing I found so compelling about his new record Ashes & Fire: dude's got pipes. Not so much in the "look at me" technical sense, but how rich and sonorous his vocals are as an instrument, and how it makes every performance feel fleshed out even when only accompanied by nothing more than his acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano.
You wonder why more shows can't be like this. Not just Ryan Adams shows that strip away the overproduction and the playacting, but concerts in general where no one's updating their Tumblr, no one's snapping photos, etc. And much to my relief, as Adams opened with the spare and gorgeous "Oh My Sweet Carolina," no one tried to sing along as if this was a fucking Dashboard Confessional show or something.