|10/24/02||Ryan Adams||Reported Set List:||Previous|
|The Warfield||Oh My Sweet Carolina||Next|
|San Francisco, CA||Tomorrow|
|Sweet Lil' Gal (23rd/1st)|
|The Fools We Are As Men|
|To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)|
|My Winding Wheel|
|The Rescue Blues|
|When The Stars Go Blue|
|You Will Always Be The Same|
|Call Me On Your Way Back Home|
|<Ryan plays along to Madonna "Like A Virgin">|
|Last Nite >>> The Modern Age (incomplete; Strokes)|
|La Cienega Just Smiled|
|SYLVIA PLATH (Cookie Monster)|
|Memphis (a/k/a Drunk & Fucked Up) *|
|Baby, I'm A Fool For You *|
savors rapt silence at Warfield
Neva Chonin, Chronicle Pop Music Critic
"This is the quietest audience so far," Ryan Adams informed a rapt audience four songs into his Thursday show at the Warfield. Spoken by most artists, this would be a criticism; few pop musicians covet a silent house. But coming from Adams, whose demand for silence during his acoustic set included restricting crowd movement to between songs, it was a high compliment.
Tempestuous, proficient and often inebriated, Adams is far from the average rock (or alt-country) star. He's a little bit hillbilly, a little bit punk, and he revels in doing things his way, from his history of baiting audience members to his current album, "Demolition," which follows up last year's breakthrough "Gold" with a hit-and-miss collection of songs written in a furious creative jag.
So. What do you do when you're one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of the past two years with a new album to peddle? You go on tour. And if you're Adams, you go on tour and largely ignore your new album to play an acoustic set of older material and selected cover songs. Not many artists could pull off a maneuver like that -- but then, not many artists are as gifted as Whiskeytown's former singer.
Whether crooning a hoarse ballad to a doomed poet ("Sylvia Plath") at a baby grand piano or yodeling through a cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" with acoustic guitar and harmonica, Adams made his repertoire of "sad bastard songs" shine on the Warfield's darkened stage. The surrounding silence added a pensive quality to the set, which ended just shy of two hours; cello and violin accompaniment by opening act Tegan and Sara embellished the emotional content.
This doesn't mean the concert wasn't unpredictable and often shambolic. Adams puttered from spotlight to spotlight, from piano to acoustic to electric guitar, mocking his sad-sack image and apologizing for his performance ("Don't worry, I won't suck all night," he promised after "You Will Always Be the Same"). The self-derision was as unnecessary as it was traditional. Adams fans have learned to expect the unexpected, be it good, bad or ugly.
Thursday, the unexpected was usually charming, including a ludicrously entertaining rendition of "Sylvia Plath" as delivered by the Cookie Monster and a retooling of the Strokes' "Last Night" as a wispy folk song. As on other tour dates, Adams invited an audience member onstage to lip-synch Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and transformed the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" into an existential dirge. He told stories about Luke Skywalker as a drunk with a bad driving record, extolled frog racing and labeled himself a "dork."
The night began with "Oh My Sweet Carolina" from his 2000 solo debut, "Heartbreaker." He followed up with one of the set's rare new songs, "Tomorrow, " before returning to the past with "Sweet Lil' Gal," movingly delivered on piano as cigarette smoke curled gently upward from his ashtray.
Songs delivered on a hollow-bodied electric guitar kept the night from sliding into melancholy. The bluesy "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" featured exquisite vocal yowls, and "Bartering Lines" snapped with low- level tension.
"This always happens when I'm in San Francisco," Adams apologized during his rambling, improvisational encore, before launching into the love paean "Amy" and a pensive cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall." "I don't know what it is. I feel like they let the guy who mows lawns up on the stage."
The mercurial artist doth protest too much. He might be erratic, but there's method to the madness -- and that methodology is sharp enough to cut through the craziest crap.
E-mail Neva Chonin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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