A rare Sunday night gig, but the chance to see the wonderful Ryan Adams – my fifth time seeing him, but the first since November 2002. In fact all four previous occasions had come within an 18-month spell back when I was down in London, in four different venues. I’d kept in touch with almost all of his albums in that time, but had somehow avoided seeing him again – until now.
Due to engineering works on the train, it was a rare gig trip in the car for me. I wasn’t giving up on much quality by forgoing a pint at the University, but the lack of air conditioning in the venue (apparently due to a specific request from Mr Adams, due to noise concerns) meant it was absolutely roasting and a drink would have come in handy. However, the venue was so packed that I decided not leave my half-decent spec. Since the gig I’ve seen plenty of complaints about the excessive heckling and shouting out from the crowd, but where I was I thought the audience was very respectful; my main problem was with all the people having to push past me to leave or go to the toilet due to where I was stood at the side.
I had made it there in time to catch all of the support act’s set. Natalie Prass is from Virginia, and her first album came out earlier this year, produced by the excellent Matthew E. White, who I saw performing at Leaf in July 2013. Her songs were all very well written, very well played and very well performed but it just somehow completely washed over me – perhaps it was just a little bit ‘late night supper club’ for me.
Prass sang and played guitar, and was backed by three or four other musicians, a Lazar Marković-lookalike on keyboards (with the synth piano sounds grating on me a little), bassist and drummer, later joined by a guy called Daniel on keyboards. As on the rest of this tour, Ryan Adams came out to play guitar on one song, “Violently”, probably the highlight of the set. Though she looked a bit like Eleanor Friedberger from The Fiery Furnaces, unfortunately (for me) the sound was more Norah Jones meets the don’t-quite-get-the-hype Sharon Van Etten.
Before Ryan came out onto a stage that featured a couple of vintage arcade games, and a giant stuffed tiger, I discovered on Twitter (via Peter Guy from Getintothis) that Joe Allen was at the gig, fresh from the mighty reds’ 2-1 defeat of Manchester City at Anfield that lunchtime. He’d had an exceptional game, so a good night out was well deserved for him, and Ryan supplied just that.
He kicked off with “Gimme Something Good” off last year’s eponymous album, before going all country when delving back to 2005’s Cold Roses for “Let It Ride”. The set-list pinged back and forwards down the years (see the Spotify playlist below), with all of the songs familiar to me, though many I’d not heard in some time as I’d only bothered to revisit his more recent albums in advance of the gig.
“Everybody Knows” from 2007’s Easy Tiger featured lovely country-esque keyboards and a wild guitar solo. Next came “Dirty Rain” from 2011’s Ashes & Fire before he finally hit the majestic Gold album (from 2001) for the sublime “New York, New York”, complete with fabulous harmonica outro.
A mid-set highlight was the gorgeous, acoustic “My Wrecking Ball”, a real gem from Ryan Adams. A little later, he played one of Natalie Prass’s songs, “Your Fool”, before she came out to join Ryan and band on the wonderful “Oh My Sweet Carolina” from 2000’s debut Heartbreaker. He answered back to all the requests shouted out from the audience by saying that he’d play whatever felt best for him, which I guess is fair enough.
He stayed with the oldies for “La Cienega Just Smiled” from Gold. The set closed with the last album’s “Trouble” and “I See Monsters” from Love Is Hell before Natalie returned for the magical “Come Pick Me Up” from his debut album, a genuinely beautiful song.
“I wish you would, come pick me up, take me out, fuck me up, steal my records, screw all my friends, they’re all full of shit”.
I honoured Ryan’s alt.country roots by wearing my red Wilco tee. There were lots of Ryan shirts in the crowd, and a nice smattering of other bands including Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Silver Jews, Foo Fighters, The Waterboys, Bruce Springsteen and Drive-By Truckers. One of Ryan’s band was in a Thin Lizzy t-shirt, while Ryan himself was sporting a sweatshirt honouring what seemed to be an obscure metal band.
This was the full set list: