Ryan Adams at Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Monday 20 August 2007

August 22, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Posted in Concerts, Ryan Adams | Leave a comment
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I went to see Ryan Adams.

I’ve been saying those six words for the last two days, and I’m pretty sure that they don’t reveal how momentous the truth of them is for me.

Last time Ryan Adams was in Australia was over two years ago, and at the time I didn’t go because (a) I’d only just bought my first Ryan album – an older one, Love Is Hell – and was worried I wouldn’t know any of the songs he’d play, and (b) I didn’t have anyone to go with. Biggest regret of my life.

The author of one of my favourite blogs, ‘I am fuel, you are friends’ (see my Blogroll), recently went to her third Ryan Adams show in two weeks. Living in Australia, I’ll be lucky if I get to see Ryan again in the next two years. Reading her blog posts about his concerts made me ache to live in America, where going to multiple shows by the same artist wouldn’t require flying to another state.

So, my first Ryan Adams concert. The first thing that hit me was how extraordinary his voice is. I’ve always adored the swagger, sweetness and longing in his voice, but live it’s just so powerful and he’s so in command of it, going from a roar to almost a whisper in a second. At times a soft incredulous laugh would erupt from within me, because I just couldn’t believe anyone could be so good.

His songs make my heart swell. I’m always in awe of singer-songwriters – how can they be blessed with such gorgeous voices, as well as the ability to write the songs (which has to be one of the hardest things in the world to do) to channel their voice through?

So many Ryan Adams songs are rooted in particular places ( ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’, ‘New York, New York’, ‘Off Broadway’, ‘Dear Chicago’, ‘La Cienega Just Smiled’, etc), and yet they’re so universal. It’s like he’s given voice to the feelings and fears inside you that you can’t quite find the words to express. He sings for all of us.

I was on the edge of my seat for much of the show, courtesy of a ridiculous heckler (why come?) who threatened to ruin it for all of us. I’d heard the horror story from his last Australian tour, whereby a fan dared to request ‘Summer of 69’ and Ryan walked off stage and didn’t return, so I was scared he’d pack it in again this time. Instead he dealt with the situation deftly, telling the loser that all he (Ryan) could hear up on stage was ‘muppet noise’ (think Cookie Monster when he’s chowing down on cookies), a noise Ryan (and some of the Cardinals) would then make every time the heckler called out.

The stage was very darkly lit, so it was hard to see Ryan’s face (and I was just a few rows from the front). But there was some endearing banter, which I believe isn’t ever a given at a Ryan Adams show. (In case you were wondering, ‘Let It Ride’ is “a song about f**king… like all songs are really.” Ryan also weighed in on a recent Australian political scandal [read: media beat-up] – like the rest of us, he can’t understand why our Federal Opposition Leader going to a New York strip club four years ago is news. “I kept waiting for the ‘and'”, he said. “He went to a strip club… AND he was attacked by monsters.” You get the idea. Also, Ryan’s on the lookout for a tall women who loves DC comics… that rules me out on account of my height. And he got to play his favourite game of sitting amongst the audience before the show. Nobody noticed him, and all the girls in brightly-coloured overcoats that he had his eye on were then joined by boys with messy hair.)

The performance of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals couldn’t be faulted, yet I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the set list.

Before the show, I had researched what Ryan’s been playing lately on his American tour, so I knew there wouldn’t be any of the ‘big hits’ (I’m glad I was prepared or I would have had completely different expectations). However, I had a wish list of 12 favourites, and I didn’t get to hear any of them. Some I knew better than to expect (such as ‘New York, New York’, ‘Gonna’ Make You Love Me’ and ‘Wonderwall’), but my list also included ‘Two’ (the first single from the new album), ‘The Sun Also Sets’, ‘I Taught Myself How To Grow Old’ (again, both new ones), ‘When The Stars Go Blue’ (played recently) and ‘I See Monsters’, one of my all-time favourites and a song he’s been playing at almost every show lately. Being that it’s a bit of an obscure one and yet I’ve always loved it (I was surprised and thrilled to discover it on recent set lists), I was sure I was cosmically destined to hear it. But alas. None of the afore-mentioned Easy Tiger songs got a run either, no ‘Stars’, and nor some others I’d dared to hope for such as ‘Desire’, ‘Answering Bell’ and ‘How Do You Keep Love Alive?’.

The show opened with ‘Goodnight Rose’, which on the album has a bit too much of a country flavour for my tastes, but live it was a revelation. Other highlights were ‘Off Broadway’, ‘Let It Ride’, ‘Dear Chicago’ and ‘Peaceful Valley’. Ryan also played ‘Please Do Not Let Me Go’, ‘Cold Roses’, ‘Magnolia Mountain’, ‘Dear John’, ‘Mockingbirdsing’, ‘Blue Hotel’ and ‘Wild Flowers’. Closer ‘Easy Plateau’ was blistering; fun until we realised there wasn’t going to be an encore.

Ryan certainly left his audience wanting more – many of us waited in our seats even after the crew started taking apart the stage, refusing to believe it was really over.

Farewell to the love of my life, until next time at least. Come back soon, Ryan. Please.

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