By Kiernan Maletsky
Friday night, Ryan Adams performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Check out our review of the show — the opening act was Val Kilmer as Mark Twain — you'll see that we have no photos from it.
That's because on this tour Adams' isn't allowing them. His PR is actually encouraging reviewers to bring along a sketch artist; that's what our sister paper Riverfront Times did in their review of his performance in St. Louis, and you can see some of the art in this post. (Big ups to Sam Washburn.) But here, the folks at Disney Hall wouldn't even let us do that.
Adams' reps say that he is not allowing photography at all the shows in order to cut down on possible distractions for other audience members.
And they're not fucking around. This reviewer from Louisville.com reports strict enforcement on the Louisville stop, saying, “And if you were so foolish as to even flash the backlit screen of your phone momentarily, you were descended upon with klieg lights and a stern admonition to PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE.”
Adams is certainly not the first artist to refuse photos on tour. Kanye West did it for his Glow in the Dark tour in 2008, though the reasons were different — he was hoping to keep his elaborate staging as much of a surprise as possible.
And while concert photography may seem like a distraction or nuisance to some artists, there's no doubt that it is a valuable part of a music fan's overall experience. Whether you were at the show or not, a great concert photo tells you something about a musician. We have seen many that change the way we feel about an artist and therefore how we hear her work.
Washburn's illustrations are great documents, but they're very different from photography. What do you think? Is the risk of a quiet moment broken by jostling cameras and clicking shutters worth the tradeoff?
A version of this story originally appeared in the Riverfront Times.