Last time Ryan Adams came to town with his incredible band, The Cardinals, he really had his cranky hat on. Appearing on a sumptuously designed stage set, under subdued purple lighting, he refused to engage in any kind of discourse with the audience. Eventually the repeated yells of “Turn the light on!” were too much, and he stormed off stage: “Maybe while we’re gone you can have a think about how to be a proper audience”. Hmmm, not exactly a warm and fuzzy experience. Then again, the musical performance was exceptional.
So what kind of a mood was the boy going to be in this time around? Well, pretty much the opposite, actually.
In fact, this evening’s tone couldn’t be described as anything other than laid back. Seeming completely at ease in their surroundings, Ryan and the band methodically jammed their way through a diverse set of songs, mainly from the new album Cardinology but with a healthy sprinkling of tracks from Easy Tiger, Heartbreaker and Gold. If anything, they may have been a little bit too relaxed: at times it felt as though their hearts weren’t really in it. It was a bit like sitting in for a band rehearsal – charming in its own way, certainly enjoyable given the quality of the music, but somehow leaving you with the impression that the experience could be so much better on the night. When the Enmore Theatre lights abruptly came on shortly after the band left the stage, ruling out the possibility of an encore, this impression was only strengthened.
That said though, even coasting like this, the Cardinals are a damned gifted set of musicians, and Ryan Adams can match it with them all the way. Given the enormous size of his back catalogue, it’s kind of fun to see how much they shake up the set list with each performance – not unlike setting your iPod playlist to shuffle and just seeing what comes up. Whatever happens, you’re assured a pretty nice collection of tunes.
Setting off with a subdued version of When the Stars Go Blue, the mood was kept there for a few songs before kicking it up a gear for a rocking performance of Magick. Even Cardinals lead guitarist Neil Casals was given a chance to showcase his fuller talents, with a beautiful rendition of Freeway to the Canyon from his solo album, No Wish to Reminisce. Highlights of the set were some towering performances of Come Pick Me Up, Oh My Sweet Carolina and Peaceful Valley. Although ending the set with a slightly puzzling choice, Cardinology’s gentle ballad, Cobwebs, the band kept up a set of sustained quality for around two hours.
He may not always deliver what you’d expect, but there’s always something wonderful about seeing Ryan Adams live. I wonder what personality he’ll wear next time he comes down here? Or was this really the last hurrah....?
When the Stars Go Blue (Gold)
Two (Easy Tiger)
Let It Ride (Cold Roses)
Fix It (Cardinology)
Everybody Knows (Easy Tiger)
Wonderwall (Love Is Hell)
Come Pick Me Up (Heartbreaker)
New York, New York (Gold)
La Cienega Just Smiled (Gold)
Freeway to the Canyon (No Wish to Reminisce, Neil Casal album)
The Sun Also Sets (Easy Tiger)
Rescue Blues (Gold)
Let Us Down Easy (Cardinology)
Born Into a Light (Cardinology)
Oh My Sweet Carolina (Heartbreaker)
Shakedown on 9th Street (Heartbreaker)
Peaceful Valley (Jacksonville City Nights)
Goodnight Rose (Easy Tiger)