The Ryan Adams & The Cardinals concert last night was great. I've heard so many different stories of how Ryan Adams is on stage that I wasn't sure what to expect. The reports say that he is either bubbly and friendly or aloof and rude. It seemed that we got him on a good night as he was cracking jokes between songs and doing some friendly bantering with some of the more vocal members of the audience.
The setlist was pretty much what I was expected drawing from the albums put out with the Cardinals. He played the singles from the newest album, Easy Tiger, joking with us that this is what we came to hear. He also hit most of the highlights from Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. He played a nice and loud version of “I See Monsters” from Love Is Hell even dipped into some older, solo stuff with “The Rescue Blues” and “Dear Chicago.” Overall, I really enjoyed the song selection and the band is as tight as the live tapes have shown.
His style of playing has definitely evolved over the years introducing more extended jams and noise exploration. Several pieces of his playing in these jams sounded like he was trying to channel early 70's Jerry Garcia. I'm not quite sure that the extra playing was always necessary and one audience member seemed to agree as he yelled out “Just sing!” after one of these interludes. There was nothing really wrong the jams it just seemed they didn't seem to “fit” at times. The best jams are the one's that grow from the original theme of the song, but with some of the songs that these pieces in them, it felt almost forced at times. One notable exception was “What Sin?” in the encore where the band did an awesome job with and the dynamics and everything seemed focused with a goal in mind.
One negative about the experience was the other concert-goers. I've never been at a show before where people seemed so unmotivated to get or stay in their seats. The show was officially supposed to start at 8:00 but everyone knew it would be close to 8:30-8:45 as shows almost never start on time. He started playing around 8:45 so everyone should have had plenty of time to get in their seats before it started but not a chance. It was only about half full when the show started and it wasn't because people were running late, it was because people were pounding $6 Bud Lights in the lobby. There's nothing wrong with that (besides the fact that people were paying per the bottle what a 6-pack costs of this watery beer) but did these people come to get drunk on cheap-but-expensive beer or watch a show?
During the show, there was constant movement of people going and coming in and out of the auditorium, getting more beer, taking phone calls, or smoking cigarettes. Seriously, just watch the show.
Overall, Meghan and I both really enjoyed the show and it was well worth the trip down. I'm in love with Charleston and both of us had a great weekend. I hope to get some pictures up soon of some of the highlights.
Pictures are up on Meghan's flickr.