Archive for the Music Category

Ryan Adams: He’s a Card

Posted in Music on October 27, 2007 by rkunzig

card2.jpgIn all of his borderline-schizophrenic, pedantic glee, Ryan Adams unleashed himself upon the Lifestyle Community Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio. He ranted, he raved, he gave Albert Einstein a shout out. As a freshly self-proclaimed Cardinal, Adams is, at best, molting, struggling to simultaneously escape the trappings of commercialism, solo-status and a checkered discography. Revision, boys and girls, is the word of the day.

Appearing with backing band The Cardinals, Adams opened the set with a searing rendition of “Peaceful Valley,” trading fiddle for guitar. After Adams indulged a long, twisting solo, scooting into the shade of amp towers in platform shoes, the Cards eased into “Magnolia Mountain,” walking down the chords and bending their knees to the song’s slinking pace. As expected, The Cards are at home with their Jacksonville City Nights and Cold Roses material, with guitarist Neal Casal dueling with Adams, drummer Brad Pemberton laying down the alt-folk sleep-waltz, and Jon Garboff winding his slide guitar through the songs like Spanish moss. While hearty and fufilling, the night’s most interesting moments came from the the meeting of two tides: Heartbreaker and Love is Hell-era Ryan Adams–a boozy wreck, swaggering from verse to verse with ragged genius and Ryan Adams the Card, soulful, centered and “heavy as the rocks on the riverbed.”

“Shakedown on 9th Street,” a frayed hop about a heist gone wrong, was the first to receive the Cardinals treatment. Pemberton asserts himself with a metronomic beat; Casal leans into Adams’ rhythm with squealing runs. Jazzed-up, sure, but eyebrows weren’t rasied until “Bartering lines,” another Heartbreaker song, came on heavy and grave as a thunderstorm, acoustic traded for electric guitar, the mining-town played down in favor of a bolder, sturdier rock. Instead of drawling the line “Ten cents up / two bucks down / ship it off and turn it into fumes,” Adams belts it out, bending before the microphone as Casal crunched his chords like a steamshovel.

“Halloween” head divided the crowd, drawing both approving cheer and boos. Adams took to the piano–topped by an electric jack-o-lantern–and slowed it down, turning the wry burn-out’s anthem into something slower, reflective, almost ruminative. Pemberton laid down an eighth-note heart on the drums; the rest of the Cards stayed in the shadows until the last chorus.

Ryan Adams, 2.0. Before playing “Two,” he halted his guitar boy to wring out a fan, telling him that no, they would not be playing that song tonight, and why didn’t he just try to enjoy “the rest of the fucking show?” Following the blowup Adams apologized, and offered a credo, of sorts: he was in a transitional period; he wanted to be a Cardinal, not the “boozy” artist of “Come Pick Me Up” (the song in question); and the transition was akin to “becoming a trannie,” with your “balls half on.”

After this bizarre valediction, Adams dedicated Gold’s “The Rescue Blues” to Albert Einstein–“Spooky E” to his “hood.” The question asks itself: has Ryan Adams fallen off the wagon?

Though I love the Adams of “Magnolia Mountain,” I wonder what we lost when we lost the boozy howler of Heartbreaker. Transition is Adams’ prerogative, and nobody is going to hold sobriety against him, at any price. But I wish he’d make up my bed, so I could make up my mind: do I light a candle for the romantic, or do I find another love, now that he’s found God?