Ryan Adams at the Balboa Theater in San Diego Last Night

ryan-adams-1.jpg
Lilledeshan Bose
No photos allowed, so I drew him instead
Ryan Adams
Balboa Theater, San Diego
Oct. 11, 2011


Sometimes I feel like audiences need a primer for Ryan Adams concerts. There will be no laughing, singing along out loud or clapping in time with the songs; there will be no screaming out song requests, there will be no photography, no recording devices, no checking of phone messages. You should, at a Ryan Adams show, do nothing but breathe (and not through your mouth, either). You should listen quietly, sit back and enjoy the ride.

And what a ride it is, when you do what Adams wants. "Put on your helmets," he declared as soon as he got onstage last night. "Prepare to rock with a fury like you've never seen." Everyone laughed because in his red checked polo shirt, skinny jeans and carefully touseled, face-covering hairdo, Adams didn't look disheveled, exactly. But he didn't look like a man who could put a crowd under a spell.

Then he picked up his guitar, and opened his mouth to perform a pristine, tender rendition of "Oh My Sweet Carolina."  And that was it. We were rocked by Mr. Adams for the rest of the evening, and it was done so masterfully, hardly anyone minded, really, that we were subject to his whim for two and a half hours.
ryan-adams-2.jpg
Lilledeshan Bose
No photos allowed, so I drew him instead
The stripped down set, conducted on a stage bare except for a piano, a straight-backed chair, a side table, a few mic stands and a music stand, was made up of earlier songs, even though his ninth studio album, Ashes & Fire, was released that day on his label, Capitol/Pax-AM. "I must have been bitten by my old catalog," Adams quipped, and indeed--Heartbreaker, Gold and Love Is Hell were well represented, to the delight of the swooning audience.

The 23-song set was proof of just how powerful a man, a guitar and a beautiful voice could be. Not once did Adams flub his lines, hit a wrong note or mangle a chord. And the singer-songwriter, for all his jovial stage banter, was very much aware of just how powerful his music was. He knew exactly when to turn on the pathos, when to pull a song from his gut, when to make people laugh. 

For the first few songs, Adams was jovial, making a slew of DRAyanisms. (To wit: "Here's another summer anthem for all of you to take to the beach," before "Dirty Rain"; or "I've never played at an infirmary before," after a few audience members started coughing; or, talking about his harmonica, "The amount of spit that goes into it, sandwich particles...I can tell you I had grilled cheese yesterday.")

Throughout the years, I'd become the Ryan Adams fan that walked on eggshells, always at the edge of my seat, always hoping no one would do anything to antagonize him so badly he would stop performing. Luckily, it wasn't until song No. 4 that douchebags in the audience started shouting out song titles. When someone yelled out a request for what is possibly Adams' most popular song, "Come Pick Me Up," Adams said, "Thank you, I'll keep that in mind...It will probably be at the end of my set, but if you have somewhere else you have to be, I'll play it for you now."

Instead of tantrums, it seems Adams has become better at putting people in their place.

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24 comments
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Shannon Trawick
Shannon Trawick

i love everything about this review.  and i flew for 2 hours to see him and he totally melted my face and bled my ears with radness in santa cruz.

Jdunivin
Jdunivin

i understand the need to hear the show but it seems as if everyone is whining about what they don't like in their lives("like so many young people""douchebags who call out songs") c'mon people, lighten up. if you want to listen to music w/complete quiet, go to a church or stay @ home and listen to yr downloaded live bootleg.  Stop whining if people call out songs, it's not a cemetary. Granted, it started to get outta hand towards the end but people were excited and showed it w/clapping along(in the middle of the set)  and shouting out songs to hear(from the beginning on). He took a long time between songs and it was starting to drag( @ least in the middle of the set). I'm a huge fan, and while this particular set was really good, i miss him w/a band...But i was really surprised & enjoyed the wealth of material he culled his set list from...Whiskeytown? About time...

Liesbethgoedman
Liesbethgoedman

We were there and agree with the comment below...What a bunch of disrespectful rude idiots....why do you have to get up every few minutes....talk loudly when you leave and when you come in again, why do you have to leave in groups of ten....why do you have to talk trough the entire pre show....nobody asked you to come in...stay outside. The show was one of the best we saw lately, Ryan Adams was great and so was Jason Isbell!

facebook-1360316681
facebook-1360316681

I feel like mentioning the "Your wife is hot!" holla came from a chick. Not sure why I feel like mentioning it, other than it made it kinda funnier. 

Stina
Stina

Very awesome review. Enjoyed the drawings :P I'd love to see him live. He has definitely the willpower to handle things gracefully. More gracefully then some idiots at concerts deserve (Don't get me started...)

David Kurihara
David Kurihara

We drove from Tempe, AZ that day and back..."Worth it" doesn't begin to describe.

Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid

flew to ireland from canada once. it was worth it.

Brin331
Brin331

Well said and written...I def share the interpretation of the evening. It was perfect.

Jared Fuchs
Jared Fuchs

I've only seen DRA once, opening for Oasis in Winnepeg a six+ hour drive, I'd kill to see a show like this. Great review, I've enjoyed the Storytellers/whatever other TV shows I've seen of him which I recalled while reading this. I can't believe people shout out during shows like that, I couldn't even think of what I'd want to hear from such an astounding songwriter in that setting. Great article, I could very well envision this great show. Thanks!

MV
MV

Thanks for writing. Wish I was there!

jaimie
jaimie

oh, and Everybody Knows was right before Invisible Riverside by the way.

jaimie
jaimie

Great review of the show. Sometimes I just want to tell people to shut the hell up and let the msuician run the show. Sometimes with an artist like DRA you get a crowd that loves him SO much and hangs on every word and laughs hysterically at everything they say that it gets ridiculous. But he was genuinely funny all night and handled the outbursts really well. When he slowed the tempo on the clap-along it made my day. I thought he did a great job with the set list and interspersed just the right amount of new album with crowd faves. And to reiterate, that was a vintage Buck Owens model guitar. I have one and they notoriously go out of tune and suck in general. But they look cool. And kudos to Jason Isbell opening the show. Great night of music.

Kate Joiner
Kate Joiner

Thanks for the re-cap and set list. With so many amazing songs in his arsenal its hard not to call out a favorite. After he played Houses on Hill I was dying to cal out "Factory Girl" but had to keep it in and enjoy the rest of the ride. His witty banter let us see another side of him, which we really only know through songs and reviews. And I absolutely loved when he stopped the crowd from clapping along. Its like nails on a chalk board to me. 

Dave Oshinsky
Dave Oshinsky

In fairness to DRA and the audience, it started to unravel a bit at the end because he couldn't find a page he wanted from his songbook, and while he looked the pause gave the audience some "participation space."  But to the reviewer's point, Ryan handled it all so well (as compared to, say, Lucinda Williams, who once threw a big binder clip at her roadie when she couldn't find a page, or to earlier vintage DRA, who wasn't quite so patient/endearing with his crowds).  The metal version of Two was spectacular - metal improv Ryan is always a show highlight for me - and when he nailed I See Monsters (which he confessed to having butchered the night before), the little fist pump he gave himself after the song was incredibly endearing.  This is a show I'd see again and again, and I think the review captured the sound and the spirit of it perfectly.

Darren T. Dodge
Darren T. Dodge

The guitar was actually red, white and blue, not Jamaican colors . He has been playing that Buck Owens American for years. Great review, though. Can't wait to see him soon.

Lille Bose
Lille Bose

Oops, my eyes must be terrible, but it really looked like red yellow and green to me. Fixed!

M Dub
M Dub

It was the lighting in the venue.  It did look red, yellow, green.  I only know the actual color scheme from photos, etc

Guest
Guest

Yep...I believe your comment on this is the correct one. On another note...I think...but maybe I was distracted...that Everybody Knows was left out of the setlist above

Lille Bose
Lille Bose

Maybe I was? After which song did he play Everybody Knows?

Kate Joiner
Kate Joiner

He played it. about 1/2 way through.

Guest
Guest

Great review by the way. Better wait and check other sources on Everybody Knows...I might have dreamed that on the drive home to OC last night...I can't remember but I thought it was in there. Nice job...what an awesome show.

michael cansler
michael cansler

This was an amazing show in a beautiful venue...and cudos to Jason Isbell as well for a nice opener. Many in the audience should have been asked to leave as far as I am concerned...but Adams handled it eloquently. I sat in row K...the 2 guys beside me talked throughout the show and the young girl beside them is like so many young people I witness these days that don't feel loved I guess unless they are checking their phone for text messages every 5 minutes to remind them they are alive and important to the Universe. What a bunch of disrespectful rude idiots...and believe me there were many more. Grow up will ya. Outside of that...great setlist covering tons of ground, voice sounded fantastic...just a great great show from a very talented musician. Thanks.

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