Set list reportedly included:
|Kendall Cafe||Oh My Sweet Carolina||Next|
|Cambridge, MA||My Winding Wheel|
|Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)|
|Come Pick Me Up|
Ryan Adams LiveKendall Café
September 29 & 30
Hell Country Series
During his tenure as frontman of Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams spun quote after quote full of the punk attitude many hoped his band would bring to the masses. On the Bloodshot Records Web site, he said the official description of the band should say, "Whiskeytown suck and are basically a drunken hype machine and that it only works because I'm sexy." The bio from the band's old page on the now-defunct Outpost Records site claimed Adams had at some point "buried himself up to the neck in North Carolina dirt and then demanded to have his hair done by a professional." But Adams' most surprising statement yet has been made on his new album, Heartbreaker.
In the intimate setting of the Kendall Café, Adams the abrasive punk was nowhere to be seen. In his place, Adams the world-weary, witty storyteller arrived. He walked through the crowd to take the stage, sitting on stage with a beat-up red acoustic, a collection of harmonicas, and a notebook full of new material, which made up much of the music for both nights. He asked the crowd's permission to do new material, not on Heartbreaker, saying "I'll probably fuck it up real bad. It's sort of like launching a ship that might be full of holes." With that, he launched into "Abigail", the sort of laid back folk beauty he's become very good at writing and performing.
It's a leap into new territory, probably more for the audience than for Adams, who is, by all accounts, an incredibly prolific songwriter. He did 20 songs the first night, and 15 the second night, covering only one Whiskeytown tune ("Dancing With the Women at the Bar"), and eight or nine songs from Heartbreaker. In fact, after the first show, Adams went to the Q Division studios in Boston to lay down a few ideas, and recorded some of the tunes he performed over the weekend. By the time most people get to hear this stuff, Adams probably will have moved on to something else.
The highlight of both nights was probably "Oh My Sweet Carolina", sung as a duet with Emmylou Harris on the album. At the Kendall, the drifter that narrates the song sounded more alone, more ragged, and a bit leaner than the one the record. It was a defining moment for everything Adams can do as a solo performer - captivate a crowd with a voice that seems at once rough hewn and smooth, and seems to have its own built-in echo, and with songs full of stories and character. It's not as if Whiskeytown, as a band, were lacking these elements, but when Adams can focus on one voice and one guitar, the results are stunning.
Adams told stories between songs that could have been songs themselves. He told the crowd of a rowdy old lady he spent most of a day with on a train, and how he discovered the chords for "My Winding Wheel" playing in a U-Haul. He also revealed a bent toward metal, claiming he always wanted to see Slayer's South of Heaven done as an acoustic stage show. "Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)" and "Come Pick Me Up" were barren and beautiful.
On the last night, just a little bit of the old Adams showed up as the crowd at the bar by the door started to get too loud. The performance space is up a short flight of stairs from the bar and separated by half a wall. Throughout the second night, a group of folks downstairs got increasingly louder, at some points almost drowning out the music for those sitting closer to the stairs. Adams dedicated the last song before the last encore to "Alpha Beta Chi" downstairs, saying, "May you watch Friends reruns in Hell forever." He then played "Dancing With the Women at the Bar", the only Whiskeytown tune played on either night. Not wanting to end on that note, he came back for one encore, a melancholy tune he called "Drunk Fucked Up Like the Twilight". It was a fitting send-off, leaving the crowd with a taste of what hopefully is to come, not from Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown - just Ryan Adams.
Nick A. Zaino III
Part of www.AnsweringBell.com