Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ryan Adams @ The Academy of Music - Philadelphia, PA 12/2/2011

I first learned of Ryan Adams from Stephen King's Celebrity Playlist on iTunes in 2005.

Let me repeat that so it sinks in...

I first learned of Ryan Adams from Stephen King's Celebrity Playlist on iTunes in 2005.  Apparently the King of Horror enjoys himself some Alt-Country.  Before 2005 I'm a not sure I ever imagined myself listening to the genre Alt-Country, let alone a fan of it.  But here I was, curious as to who Whiskeytown was and why he was raving about them.  He chose for his playlist '16 Days'.

Maybe I was just in the right frame of mind but I immediately fell in love with this.  The mix of Caitlin Cary's melodic violin and soothing backup vocals to Ryan's rock tinged guitars and rich lead vocals seemed all too good to be true.  Within minutes I was the proud owner of digital download of Strangers Almanac by Whiskeytown.

From the opening of Inn Town I was hooked.  Since them this has become a top 5 album of mine.  If I only had a nickel for every time that I spun this classic.

I became a little obsessed with the North Carolina native after that.  I do that a lot with new music.  I learned that this was the music of a younger, hard drinking Ryan Adams.  A Ryan Adams that had quit his punk rock band at 18 to do country because it was easier to sing.  A Ryan Adams who was so prolific that the band would come into the studio to record the songs and over night he had written newer, better material.  A Ryan Adams who recorded Strangers Almanac with instruments bought that day at a pawn shop because they left theirs in the parking lot before they embarked for Nashville.  A Ryan Adams who was so cocky that he once said to the crowd in a Sports Bar in Detroit, "I'm not saying I'm too cool to play here.  I'm saying I'm cool enough to not want to play here."  You either love Ryan Adams fanatically or you hate him.  You won't find him on the radio so you literally have to find him.  There are people that hate him.  Hell, some of his fans hate him.  They go to shows to taunt him.  Which was much easier to get him to go off at a time that he was drinking heavily.  He even left a scathing message on the answering machine of a reviewer who compared him to Jeff Tweedy.  Which he HATES.  And the fans know it.  It was only a matter of time before Mr. Adams was going solo.

I was a member of eMusic at the time.  A stage in their existence where you got 90 downloads a month for $14.99.  The site at the time was completely independent label music so some months it was hard to find 90 downloads.  Some months they were gone in an hour.  This month I was downloading Ryan's solo debut Heartbreaker.

This was an album deserving of his swagger.  The high points were higher.

And the melodic points were edgier.

From here I explored Gold.  The album that had Elton John wringing his panties out.  With songs like 'New York, New York' that explore more than just his Alt-Country roots and his new love for the City That Never Sleeps.

'La Cienega' is a favorite of mine.

Next I fell in love with Rock and Roll.  An album put out as an act of defiance.  If you were to listen to Ryan's albums in the order that they were written Love Is Hell would be next.  But the record company refused to put it out.  They wanted something more upbeat.  They wanted another Gold.  In a prolific way that only Ryan could achieve he quickly released Rock and Roll.

With its anger and raw emotion.  With its hard edge sound.  There are actually small traces of Whiskeytown in there.  With guitars that remind me of 'Yesterday's News'.  It was different.  And I liked it!

Love Is Hell was originally released as two separate EP's before finally being packaged together.  Being sullen or melodic is not a bad thing.  His cover of 'Wonderwall' is haunting.

And songs like 'English Girls Approximately' could have easily found themselves on Gold.

These were the times in his career where he was prolific and genius.  Between solo stuff and Whiskeytown it was 7 albums in 7 years.  Next was the point of his career where he was prolific and mediocre.  When I discovered Ryan Adams it was right as 29 was being released.  A year that he released 3 albums.  He hired a band, The Cardinals.  He explored his sound.  You could hear traces of the Grateful Dead.  It was different...and I was indifferent.  I am not saying that there were not high points.  There were.  But the albums were not as consistent.  And there were low points.  His voice started to suffer.  My guess would be the hard living.  He started to sing in a pitchy falsetto and when he wasn't doing that his vocals started to resemble Neil Young.  I was starting to lose interest.

By 2010 he had released 4 more albums that I quickly forgot and also married Mandy Moore.  He then announced that he was taking a break from music.  He was disillusioned with the music industry.  Tired of his fans and critics and also announced he was losing his hearing due to Ménière's disease. I had been lucky enough to grab a vinyl only release of his Heavy Metal album Orion.

Even so I had assumed at this point it was all just about over.

Flash forward to late 2011.  Ryan Adams has his own Pax-Am record label and works with historic produce Glyn Johns for the release of his 13th solo album Ashes and Fire.  It really is that easy to fall in love all over again.  The sound was there and the voice was resurrected.  Had you told me that this album was recorded after Gold I would have believed it.  It was the Ryan Adams that I originally fell in love with.  He was BACK!!!

There are many high points to this record.  The title track is memorable.

And Dirty Rain will get multiple plays.

I figured if were were to ever come to my neck of the woods I would be stupid not to see him live.

And then the floor dropped out beneath me...

When I went to look at his tour schedule he had announced that he would be playing an acoustic set (I am assuming because of his hearing condition) and making a stop and the historic and beautiful Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  Why my dismay?  They had already gone on sale...and sold out...in six minutes.

I concluded that I had missed my chance.  That was it.  I don't get to cross Ryan Adams off my Bucket List. I even went to Facebook and yelled at my friends.  "How could you let Ryan Adams come to Philadelphia and NOT tell me?!?!?!"

A day later I had a notification on Facebook. A reply to my post.  And knowing my friends it would be snarky.  I read the response.

"I might be able to get you tickets."

I read it again.

"I might be able to get you tickets."

I repeated this about 50 times.  I just could not believe what my eyes were reading.  It was from a friend of mine in the industry and I know she would not joke about something like that.  She had said that she was friends with his manager and she would see what she could do.

A couple of days later she let me know that there would be two tickets at the Box Office.  I WAS GOING TO SEE RYAN ADAMS!!!!!!!!

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had a friend that shared common artists such as Whiskeytown in our top five.  I felt it appropriate to take him.  We were off to see Ryan Adams at the Academy of Music.  On old venue with fantastic acoustics.  The room is not deep but has multiple balconies.  A perfect setting for an acoustic Ryan Adams set.

I was anxious to get there that night.  I did not want to be late for anything.  To top it off, I had no idea what kind of seats we were getting.  So we rushed, we got there early, and we got our tickets. I had the envelope in my hand and I slowly took them out.  6th row.  6TH ROW!!!!!  And yet, we were there so early doors were not opening yet.  As a side note, Ryan HATES scalpers.  If you follow him on Twitter he will announce the night of a show if extra tickets will be at the box office.

We went to a bar across the street for a drink to kill time and went back.  I am always anxious until I get my T-Shirt.  I rushed it and bought my Atari Themed Ashes & Fire T-shirt and also a vinyl 45 of  the original demo version of 'Come Home Starsign'.

We made it to our seats but were very disappointed to learn that there was no photography allowed.  The ushers walked the aisles to make sure your phones were away.  BOOOO.  But Classic Ryan nonetheless.

Jessica Lea Mayfield was the opening act.  I love her deep, bluesy voice.  I love her to this day...but I will never see her in concert again.  Her stage presence is almost non-existent. She sounded great but just stood there song after song.  No audience interaction.  I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she was overwhelmed.

They then set up the stage for Ryan.  It looked as though it was set in three sections.  A microphone stand in the middle of the stage.  A chair to stage right and a piano to stage left.

He came out wearing a metal concert shirt.   I wish I could remember which one but I just can't.  He kicked right in with 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and it just kept getting better and better. He sounded fantastic. He threw in a couple songs from the new album before treating us to 'My Winding Wheel' and a killer version of 'Sylvia Plath' on piano.  We were even treated to 'Dear Chicago'.

The crowd was loving him.  His interaction with the audience between songs was fantastic.  He was charming.   He had the stage hands move a monitor so an audience member could have a better view.  He joked about loud people in the audience.  Told stories about roommates doing drugs.  And shared with us that when old guitars wont stay in tune he has to let them rest.

He knocked out 20 songs with the end building up to a piano rendition of 'New York, New York', 'English Girls Approximately', '16 Days' and a personal favorite 'Come Pick Me Up'.

I tried to sneak a few photos but it was too dark.

Fortunately, people were able to capture some video of the encore, an acoustic cover of "Round and Round' by Ratt.  He wouldn't tell us what it was but the crowd started to get it by the chorus.

For an artist that has such a love hate relationship with his audience he really seemed to do this one specifically for us.  It was a perfect night.

 Shortly after the tour was over Ryan announced an extremely limited 15 record vinyl release of the tour called Live after Deaf never to be reprinted.  It also included a digital download card of extra songs.

The day it was released online the Pax-Am server crashed and they had to reschedule the release.  I waited all day at work and I was lucky enough to get through and get one!!!  The next day I received an e-mail saying they sold to many and I was now on a wait list in case there were duplicate orders or credit cards did not go through.  A few days later I received an e-mail informing me that I would not be getting a copy.  So now I am back to hating him.

See you at the next show!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts