Ryan Adams Does Not Suck At Wilshire Theatre
Ryan Adams is an artist people either hate or love. I like to think that most people that hate him are either stunted by some pre-conceived notion of his lyrics and ability, or are just not versed in his catalog and history.
This year’s tour, supporting the new album Easy Tiger, has started out as an acoustic tour consisting of, as Ryan likens them, “blue cave” shows. As I type this I’m listening to the first “red cave” show, which would be an electric night. Reason being: Ryan has been healing his wrist from a skateboarding mishap.
The colored cave model should show you the versatility of Ryan and his “bestest friends in the whole world,”The Cardinals. That was a direct quote from the “blue cave” show at the Wilshire Theatre a few nights ago. Adams likes to play with his audience — not so much tell stories, but interact in a way that tells you that you are involved, but not part of, his show. The Cardinals, consisting of Neal “The NC” Cassal on Guitar & Vocals, Jon “The Slider” Graboff on Pedel Steel & Vocals, Chris “Spacewolf” Feinstein on Bass & Vocals, Brad Pemberton on Drums, and Jamie “The Candyman” Candiloro on Piano, are THE backup that Ryan has needed for so long. Some have been with him for years now, others just recent additions. All have the ability to not only look through, but also push Ryan through his ever changing visions of how his music can, and should be played. I think “dialed in” would be the analogy that one would use to describe their contribution throughout the evening.
The Wilshire Theatre seemed much like it’s estranged cousin down the street that is The Wiltern. Both have a very nostalgic and classic feel towards Los Angeles of old. The Wilshire being a bit smaller and seated seemed like the better venue for a “blue cave” performance.
The band’s setup was very tight and close quartered. Very much a “œliving room” vibe with hanging orbs, some with jack-o-lantern etchings, hanging from above stage. The show was mainly peppered with songs off of his albums 29, Cold Roses, and his newest, Easy Tiger. Starting off with “Please Do Not Let Me Go”, and the brilliant “Blue Sky Blues”, The Cardinals put on an acoustic evening that would give ANY act on the scene a run for their money in all aspects. From arrangements and harmonies, to ambience and lighting, The Cardinals gave us two hours of emotive psychedelia.
Granted the show was all-acoustic, the jams and flows of rock & roll still seeped out of the amps like it didn’t have a choice. Reworked versions of electric favorites such as “Cold Roses”, “Peaceful Valley”, “A Kiss Before I Go”, and “This is It”, all off of Cold Roses, with the exception of the latter, off of the oft looked down upon Rock n Roll album, had been turned into pieces of acoustic brilliance. All accentuated by every note played by The Cardinals. Whether it had been “The Slider’s” sexy down slope, “Spacewolf’s” ever consistent and much needed thumping on the bass, or the ever talented Neal “The NC” Casals constant compliment and expansion on every one of Ryan’s changes -musically or lyrically – the man is always there for him. There were many high points throughout the evening including the harmony laden “The Sun Also Sets” and “Dear John”, as well as the now favored “Let It Ride” and “Magnolia Mountain”.
As the evening progressed, and the man of the hour (actually two) got more loose, the banter kept the crowd in better spirits. Riffing on his own morbidness, he enjoyed introducing a few songs as, “this one’s a ballad” and “the prozac factory is where all these new ones were written.” Anyone attending any show of his would already know how morbid and introspective the man can be, but we all attend not for that, but for how true his lyricism is. Add to that his prolific and maddeningly brilliant scope of musical composition, it’s no wonder why he comes off (to the public at the very least) so unstable and unpredictable.
As an L.A. native, I was obviously hoping for at least one song that referenced my home. That came at the end of the set. When a nervous Ryan got up, paced around the stage for a moment, seemingly unsure whether or not to do what he was about to do (or was he placating?) or not, and then went to the stand up mic immediately busting into “Goodnight Hollywood Blvd”. Cascaded in beams of brilliant light, he tore through the ever familiar song like his life depended on it.
The final, and quite possible very integral, bit that I can say or commend based on my experience is the lighting. It rivals any act I have ever seen. The cue points were spot on, and the emotion they all hit just gave that much more to the audience in terms of emotional validity. Not that they need more considering the depths of his lyrics.
If you couldn’t tell already, I can go on all day about this man, his band, and their music. Some say they can’t listen to him because of his involvement with Phil Lesh, and what a “travesty” it is having him in the Jerry role at times. Others say that he’s too depressing and heavy handed. I’m talking about my friends of course, and of course, you can’t win them all over, but I will say that in regards to Ryan Adams and his band The Cardinals, I most certainly will try.
Photos by Nobody Grrl