Adams Mines Gold At Atlanta Tour Opener
ATLANTA For Ryan Adams, opening
his solo tour at the Variety Playhouse on Friday meant digging up
a few ghosts from the past and putting a few others to rest.
At the first stop on the 26-year-old singer/songwriter's fall trek
in support of his new solo release, Gold, Adams admitted
that he was returning to less-than-hallowed ground.
"Thanks for coming out to the first show," the
scruffy-haired, denim-jacket-clad Adams told the crowd. "Nice
to do it here, since this is the place I f---ed up last time I
tried to play with a band."
That last time was back in spring 1998, when Atlanta fans
witnessed one of the final meltdowns featuring Adams and his
former band, North Carolina alt-country darlings Whiskeytown.
Adams has put time and distance between himself and his
Whiskeytown days, issuing a stripped-down, emotionally raw debut, Heartbreaker,
last year while splitting time between New York and Nashville.
(Whiskeytown's posthumous Pneumonia was issued earlier this
The Gold sessions brought a shift to the sunnier climes of
Hollywood, where Adams hobnobbed with the likes of Alanis
Morissette and Winona Ryder while recording the sprawling,
multifaceted LP with several friends and notable rock progeny,
including the Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, Ethan Johns (son of
producer Glyn Johns) and Chris Stills (Stephen Stills' son) (see "Ryan
Adams Reflects On Pneumonia, Gold").
As evidenced by Gold's generally brisk feel and upbeat
outlook, the change of scenery has done Adams a wealth of good.
Onstage in Atlanta, even though he didn't look tanned, Adams
practically beamed as he comfortably led his touring band, the
Lax, through a rootsy and rocking 25-song, two-hour-plus set.
Emphasizing the new, Adams and the Lax featuring childhood
friend Billy Mercer on bass, veteran session hand "Bucky"
Baxter on pedal steel, guitarist Brad Rice and drummer Brad
Pemberton opened with an unreleased song, "Candy
Doll," before knocking out a half-dozen new nuggets from Gold,
highlighted by "Somehow, Someday,"
"Firecracker" and the Heartbreakers-ish potboiler
After a brief, lighthearted detour through the country standard
"Lovesick Blues," Adams was in good enough spirits to
deflect an audience request for the James Gang's "Funk
#49" with a simple, "I'm sorry, but f--- ya
kindly," then launch into the honky-tonk shuffles of "To
Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" and "The Rescue
Adams and company also downplayed and rode out the typical
first-night hiccups, laughing off a false start of another new
tune, "La Cienega Just Smiled," and trying to pass it
off as intentional.
"Sorry, that was in the wrong key," Adams admitted in
between slugs from a bottled beer. "I'm a big enough stoner
that I could have been in the wrong key, but I don't think so. We
actually worked that out at soundcheck so we could finish our
cigarettes. That's gonna work well tomorrow night, I swear."
After hotboxing a bit of the Rolling Stones' "Midnight
Rambler" onto the end of "Oh My Sweet Carolina" via
a harmonica-led workout, Adams made his sole nod to his
Whiskeytown past by covering "Nervous Breakdown," the
Black Flag song Adams' former band often played in concert.
But "Breakdown" was the only drop of Whiskeytown to be
had at the show, as Adams instead relished the role of leader and
focal point of a boisterous rock band cutting loose on his own
In a somber and poignant yet uplifting moment during the
show, the crowd openly acknowledged the September 11 tragedy and
paid tribute to New Yorkers by roaring in approval of the
"I'll always love you though, New York" chorus to Gold's
lead track, "New York, New York."
For the first encore, Adams returned to the stage with an acoustic
guitar for several of his Heartbreaker ballads, including
stirring versions of "My Winding Wheel," "Don't Ask
for the Water" and "Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That
Bringing out the Lax for the last round of songs, Adams and
cohorts then freely rambled through "Come Pick Me Up"
and several other unreleased tracks before asking the audience for
its approval and a little friendly advice.
"I'm sorry, that's as much as we know, and that's as long as
we have," Adams said, "but this wasn't too bad for a
first gig, right? Now, what's a good place to get really pissed