|11/11/02||Ryan Adams||Oh My Sweet Carolina||Previous|
|Royal Festival Hall||Tomorrow||Next|
|London, England||Sweet Lil' Gal (23rd/1st)|
|To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)|
|The Fools We Are As Men|
|Call Me On Your Way Back Home|
|My Winding Wheel|
|La Cienega Just Smiled|
|You Will Always Be The Same|
|The Rescue Blues|
|Everything In Its Right Place *|
|When The Stars Go Blue|
|Come Pick Me Up|
From The Evening Standard:
Ryan Adams seemed to be feeling rather overexposed last night. Usually his wit, bravado and rowdy backing band, the Pinkhearts, can see him thorough even the most ramshackle performance but on this solo acoustic tour there was nowhere to hide. 'Why am I doing this?' he wondered, as he lit endless cigarettes and fumbled his anecdotes. But as soon as he opened his mouth to sing, everything made sense again. Alternating between guitar and grand piano, he broke hearts with lovesick odes, such as 'Sylvia Plath', 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and 'La Cienga Just Smiled'. Always one to play down his sensitive side with a joke, he went off to a lengthy ramble about the role of bounty hunter Boba Fett in the new Star Wars films, and introduced the beautiful and despondent 'Dear Chicago' as 'Pass Me The Razor Blade I'd Like To End It Now.' Just when we thought the lighting engineer had the cushiest job of the evening, bathing the stage in constant blue light, on came Adams' strangest idea - a man dressed as a clown, who sat on a chair to his rear until the end, unacknowledged, drinking and reading a newspaper. But however much he undermined himself, he couldn't draw attention away from the stark loveliness of his songs. He even offered up his own review 'Ryan Adams blows it in the big place with the 2001 things', a reference to the Festival Hall's Space Odyssey-style boxes. How about, 'Ryan Adams puts himself down too much at another triumphant show instead?
Ryan Adams and Jesse Malin
Something's a bit odd here. We've just just walked in to a music venue with no bag or body search, and there's no bomber-jacket bouncer in sight. A polite notice informs us that there will be an "interval" between the two acts, AND we may buy ice cream cartons from the foyer. I feel I'm on parole when a swanky black suited man with a torch shows us to our seats.
You can't fault Jesse Malin for his confidence. He comes breezing on to one of London's finest orchestral acoustic spaces as though he was the headliner, full of funny tales and wholesome playing. The songs from his Ryan Adams produced debut album are well-rounded affairs and it's true, he does resemble a young Dylan for his vitality, but he'd be better placed setting his stall out for another act who wouldn't place him in the shade quite so mercilessly.
A little boy lost then takes to the imposing stage. Ryan Adams looks around him, mutters "I shouldn't have had my hair cut. It's too fucking bright", then unwraps 'Oh My Sweet Carolina'. He's not completely alone in the wilderness, as an occasional extra guitarist and two women who share piano, violin, cello and vocals, frame his filigree. Then comes 'Tomorrow', dueted as the most gentle of lullabies. For this outing, the pain of loss that runs through it is a heart rending revelation, co-written as it was, with Adams' lover just before her death.
There seems to be a hefty weight on Ryan tonight and he is living the blues. I'd feel really sorry for the guy if he didn't sound so damn good. The normally rollicking 'To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)' has been pared down to a filthy, slow, southern blues guitar song which chases a witch-hunted voice across the stage, then kicks and spits on it. Adams is down tonight, but this mood of introspection is drawing out one of his finest vocal performances heard on record or otherwise. Fancy-pants venue or not, there's some weird chemistry at work here. Adams is essentially performing for himself and if anyone happens to break through to join where he is, it's on a one-to-one basis.
Both 'Dear Chicago' and 'You Will Always Be The Same' from 'Demolition' are performed with a familiar ease, spilling out as though freshly written and the rest of the tunes - all taken from 'Gold' and 'Heartbreaker' benefit from the pared down, raw readings.
For the second half, Adams seems more relaxed, apparently warming to the occasion, which signals that Ryan the entertainer is back in town; falling to ground in a surprising mock faint in the middle of one song, ruminating on the role of the kebab in British society and embarking on a rant regarding the commercial whoring of the Fett family in the Star Wars saga. He tells us he's in the middle of learning The Smiths' 'Asleep', promptly performing it only to stop midway. A solo piano version of Radiohead's 'Everything In Its Right Place' promises to be glorious but he forgets a line and collapses in laughter before wondering out loud if the "sucking lemons" line he forgot is the reason Thom Yorke squints. Ouch! He then apologises profusely, convinced he'll be sent to "British hell" now.
'When The Stars Go Blue' is followed by his own reading of 'Wonderwall' which if truth be known, was stolen from under his pillow one night by a pair of nefarious Manc brothers, so at home is it in his hands. The night closes with 'Come Pick Me Up' which as always is a celebration, but some irregular gig goers should have been restrained from clapping along in time, ice dance style.
With Ryan Adams, you never quite know what you're going to get. He's not always spot on, but you know whatever you get will always be straight from the hip.
Well strange choice of venue for Ryan, as he pointed out after a couple of
songs 'This must be the most intimidating place in the world to play'
But the advantage of playing in a hall designed for symphony orchestras was that the sound was absolutely amazing, you could hear Ryan's every drag on those Marlboros, crystal clear!
Uncut magazines new hero Jesse Malin opened. I only just got his record so I dont know all the songs, but he definitely played Wendy, Xmas, Brooklyn, and Almost Grown, funny guy too, very New York. He sounded good, but the record sounds a lot better, probably the songs are more suited to a band rather than solo acoustic. I'll see him more on the tour so we'll see. Jesse went off and in keeping with the NY theme the Ramones
came on over the PA. This was followed by some opera, a little more in keeping with the venue than da brudders!
Eventually all went quiet and the Ramones reappeared, Blitzkrieg Bop came on with the familiar cry of 'Hey Ho Lets Go', and on strolled Ryan. Accompanied by a two girl string section, and occasionally Chief sitting in on guitar, this wasnt exactly a solo show, nor was it acoustic, Bartering Lines in particular being given the full on electric overhaul, complete
with wailing feedback.
This, for at least the first three quarters of the show, was structured controlled Ryan, no flicking through notebooks and the 'Heres one I wrote at the soundcheck' stuff. The plus side was that songs I hadnt particularly taken to, Sylvia Plath, Fools We Are As Men, and the screaming guitar version of Bartering Lines, all had new life breathed into them.
The strings didnt always work well, Dear Chicago could have done without them, but they did fill the sound nicely at times particularly in a venue designed for such instruments. Ryan did get looser as things went on, about half way through he switched on ramble mode on the subject of eating Kebabs (something usually only done in England only after consuming huge amounts of beer) Chistina Aguillera's underwear, some Star Wars stuff and the usual TV trivia. He even declared it the 'show of the tour' at one stage, and launched into his now traditional 'I love London, London fuckin' rocks' speech!
Any faults? Well it was very dim and dark in there and I think this is the first show Ive seen in which he played no new (or unreleased) original material at all, and I did miss that. He really made us work for the encores too. But that aside, this was an extremely good show with probably the best sound you could ever hope for.
Oh one weird thing, during To Be Young, a person in a large clown suit wanders on the elevated section at the back of the stage and sits down in a dim but definite spotlight, lights a cigarette flicks through a newspaper and sits there, in the dim light, for the rest of the show! Ryan must have wandered over the river to Covent Garden during the day and rustled up a street mime!
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