Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ryan Adams - 9:30 Club - 9/8/2014

A cool Monday evening.  A pre-show drink then a line that wrapped around the club and down 8th Street.  The usual DC-hipster-mix, relaxed.  Happy.  Easy.

Found a spot upstairs on the balcony with a great view.  And despite no announced opener, some guys came out and ran through some ramshackle fairly standard blues-rock.  Then a long wait..

Finally, about 9:30 or so Ryan slides out.  Hair in his face.  Jeans.  Batman t-shirt.  And a lot of energy.  He was _there_.  Launched into Gimme Something Good - easily my favorite from the new album.  And it sounded so much better live.  Lots of stuff from the new album - but some classic Cardinals stuff too.  

A Kiss Before I Go:  One shot, one beer, one kiss.. 

And Easy Plateau and the incomparable Let it Ride.  But no Heartbreaker.  No Gold.

He was relaxed, present, enjoying himself.  Telling jokes and crazy stories.  Sober and happy and comfortable..   enjoyable.  But nothing extraordinary.  Here's the Post's take.  Comfort zone indeed..  but I found myself wanting to see him slip outside that zone and push the limits a bit further.. 

Flashback Section

So, thinking back - this was the third time I'd seen him at the 9:30.  The first was back in October 2001, just after Gold.  Just after 9/11.  An incredible setlist, amazing energy.  Pure sweet visceral rock and roll..

Then the two-night stand in October 2002 (what a month for concerts that was -> Neko @ Black Cat; 2 Ryan Adams shows; Guided by Voices, Wilco, Dave Eggers + They Might Be Giants).  My old notes from the first night:

Ryan came out around 10:15. Hair uncombed, flannel. cigarette burning as it would all night. Sits down at the center of stage and plays "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and you could hear a pin drop. it's the song that Gram always wished he'd written (and tried to write in Hickory Wind). it takes your breath away. From there to a plugged in resonator guitar for "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)". And we're off. He played most of heartbreaker. did "Brown Sugar" on piano in the same slow lumbering arrangement he did with Beth Orton. Played guitar along with Madonna records on a turntable in the middle of the stage (Like a Virgin no less). He was the most relaxed, most engaging, most intimate performer i'd seen in some time. 

And then the second night:

Around 11:30 Ryan sulked on stage, and started, once again into "Oh My Sweet Carolina". The energy of the crowd was type-A. Up front. Full of friday night swagger and beer and sex. you could tell right away that the mellow intimacy, the casual give and take between aud. and performer (despite some amusingly obnoxious crowd members on thursday night) would be harder to come by tonight. So he barely looks up. Then, as the night before over to the plugged in resonator for "To Be Young" - to the piano. back to guitar. back to piano. 30 minutes in he finally talks to us. responding to a drunk calling over and over for a (as far as I can tell) non-existent song, a sarcastic, half-sigh - "Wow." Then some cursory praise for Tegan and Sara. And the sulk was in full effect. He flew through the set. Hit all the structural notes of the set (playing along to "Like a Virgin") but without the sense of fun... no half-baked stab at the Stroke's "Last Night." No rambling attempt to play "The Bar is a Beautiful Place" despite having forgotten the chords to the bridge.. He didn't put on a Misfits record and rave about how he just had to play that here (on the very site of many Misfits shows..). He did stop everything and play, on request, "Damn, Sam (I love a woman that rains)" because "No one ever asks me for that one". The show was a good 45 minutes shorter and much less interesting. You got the sense you were watching an above-averagely talented brat. 

Monday's show had none of the peaks of  that first show (but also none of the valleys of the second).  It was just good.  And that's not a bad thing..  at all. 

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