If you're not hip to the ever so quirky crooner whose voice makes me swoon, then let me be the first to introduce you. Ryan Adams is an underrated, no longer under the influence alt country/rock super genius. He started out in a band called Whiskeytown and eventually ended up going solo. There were lots of drugs and alcohol spotted in-between and deeply woven throughout both the band and his solo career, but he has recently emerged sober and has remained that way.
His music is simple, clean, emotional, painful, dramatic, haunting and honest. It's moves you to the core and settles in your soul never wanting to leave you. The mere sound of his voice gives me goosebumps. I never thought I would fall in love with him like I did, but there's something about that man and his music that I simply cannot resist. It's a little bit country, and it's a little bit rock and roll. His recent stuff definitely has a more rock flavor, but there's no escaping his country roots. He has a loyal, die hard following with little to no radio play, and he certainly can't be found on MTV or VH1.
He played at the Palace Theater in Columbus last night. I attended the show with my trusty sidekick, Jessica, who also happens to be an uber Ryan Adams fan. I believe the show was sold out (like the last one we attended). As we made ourselves cozy in the velvet theater seating, he finally took the stage about 10 minutes late. I'm not holding that against him; I'm just trying to set the mood. He walked out in a Whitesnake T-shirt (Yes!) and later in the evening even made a reference to Britney Fox (YES!). The third song in, he busted out with his cover of Oasis' Wonderwall. In my personal opinion, Ryan's cover may be better than the original. That's saying a lot because I never think cover songs are better than the originals. He also played my all time favorite song, Come Pick Me Up, which he refused to do at the last show (no thanks to the two stupid bitches who kept screaming at him to play it). This my friends, was a real treat and may be one of the greatest concert highlights of my life. His voice was hauntingly beautiful and the band sounded amazing. To me, there were some sound issues at the beginning of the show (it sounded a little too tinny for my taste), and Ryan was very obviously making adjustments all night, but it all eventually came together very harmoniously.
Ryan's stage show is not what you'd normally expect from a rock show. You can hear the light murmur of the crowd, but there certainly isn't very much shouting (except for in-between songs or when he plays a crowd pleaser). There aren't a lot of fancy lights or pyro, just a couple of props, some instruments, and some incredibly talented musicians. This time, he talked to the crowd a lot in-between songs. I'm pretty sure he put his sassy pants on because he was telling jokes and silly stories, making up songs about a remote control, talking about his obession with metal, talking about going to dinner with Alanis Morrisette and getting her hair caught in his jacket zipper...the man was all over the place. It made for a very entertaining evening. It was nice to listen to his banter and experience his personality.
The one thing you don't want to do when you see Ryan live is yell out songs that you want him to play. He doesn't appreciate it at all, and it will cause him not to play whatever song it is that you want to hear. Although this time he was a lot nicer about it (ask the two girls at the last show how nice he was to them), he simply asks the audience to enjoy the show that he is presenting to them. It's not a lot to ask for.
His stage prescence is like that of a 12 year old boy standing in front of his entire class getting ready to play the talent show. He actually reminds me a little bit of Waldo from Hot for Teacher, only grown up: skinny, awkward, and wearing black rimmed glasses. It's not that he's inexperienced or even awkward. It's not like that at all. He's just incredibly artsy and deep with an almost child like innocence (even though we know he is SO not innocent). Does that make sense? Probably not. You just have to see him live to understand. There's just a lot of lunging, crouching, and adjusting of the micorphone.
He's very aware that people are there to see him, and it he makes it very clear how uncomfortable that makes him. I think he's just spent so many years building himself up and becoming an incredible performer, that now he just wants to shift the focus on the band. He's in a band. They're called The Cardinals. It's not Ryan Adams & The Cardinals. It's just The Cardinals, and he just happens to be a member of that band. No big deal. Let's move on...
If this little blog isn't enough to make you want to go out and listen to some Ryan Adams, then there may be no hope for you. He's certainly different, a variant to my normal musical selection, but he's so worth a listen. He won't disappoint you. You may not like his music, but you should at least be able to appreciate his genius. And if you listen to him and hate him...well...maybe your musical taste just sucks. ;)
Fun Fact: Ryan Adams and Bryan Adams were both born on the same day: November 5th, which also happens to be my birthday. And Gram Parsons shares this birthday too! Hot damn!