There are a handful of acts that I would see time and time again, but there are none that I would head off on a Ryanair flight at stupid o’clock for - bar Ryan Adams. Two years after he announced that he would be retiring from music for a bit, he decided an acoustic European tour was on the cards. He had announced a handful of dates but unfortunately no Irish gigs, so I snapped up the only reasonably- priced weekend gig in Glasgow. Soon after of course, he announced two Irish dates but thankfully I would have been out of the country anyways, and so didn’t feel too bad. This would be my third time to see Ryan live; the last two gigs were with the Cardinals, so I was really looking forward to a stripped down acoustic gig. Check out the two reviews here and get the bootleg of the 2008 Dublin show here too, one of the best gigs ever.http://indielimerick.blogspot.com/2009/02/ryan-adams-irish-tour-history.html
I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely a city Glasgow is, as we arrived at ten in the morning of the gig we had plenty of time to explore. The city is rich with beautiful architecture and is a real shopper’s paradise (the girlfriend was undeniably impressed!) We decided to head to the gig early as it was unreserved seating. The O2 academy was situated a couple of minutes walk from the main streets. The queue was winding its way around the block and down the street with 40 minutes before the doors would open, and it was clear that the attendees were genuine devotees. A mish mash of flannel checked shirts snaked round the old building - I always get a kick out of the guys who are literally the head off of Ryan, a nice bunch as always.
We were in luck and secured two seats dead centre in the 6th row. The academy was a lovely building from the inside boasting balcony seats and a huge stage. Jessie Malin was the support for the night and played a nice set for an hour. The set was punctuated with funny/slightly disturbing stories of the road and childhood, and to be frank I felt he spent too much time in one-way, somewhat self-indulgent conversation with the crowd and I really couldn't warm to him at all. I have listened to his stuff a few times but never could connect with the music, though admire the songs themselves. The stilted set and forced banter reaffirmed that I'm not a fan, but the crowd enjoyed it and it set it up nicely for Ryans arrival.
I had a good idea of the show/treat we were about to get thanks to great reviews and the lovely people over at ryanadamsarchive.com but nothing prepared us for the amazing 26 song, 2 and half hour acoustic bliss we experienced. He just seemed to be having such a great time weaving in and out of his discography aided by an endearingly dishevelled book of songs on front of him. He seems to have fallen back in love with his solo stuff and we got 5 from "Heartbreaker" and 4 from "Gold" his first two solo records. An amazing set spanned the length of his releases including “16 days” from his previous band "Whiskeytown". Unusually, he didn't play any new tracks in such a massive set but I wasn't complaining. Throughout the current tour he has been showcasing some new tunes so hopefully we will see a new solo album soon. I picked up a 2 track 7 inch at the gig with an Alice in Chains cover of “Nutshell” and a lovely new track entitled “Empty Room” - it’s a sound of good things to come.
As you may know, it can sometimes be hard to tell what Ryan will show up on the night, and on this particular night we had a phone go off, People shouting out stuff, people shuffling to the bathroom and people recording the show on camera. All these things in previous gigs would have set him off and would have disrupted the flow but it didn't faze him one bit as he threw back fun banter and seemed in such great form. He gave out about recording the show on phones/cameras and said we should just enjoy the moment; I respected this and didn't take out the camera once. Some may perceive this as somewhat diva-esque behaviour but I think everybody genuinely respected it, was just something he is not cool with, which is fair enough. You could speculate as to the reasons behind this aversion to recording in gigs, and it could be for many reasons, but I suspect that in this stripped back setting, with the singer completely exposed with only a guitar/piano for company – it may be that blinking red lights/flashes may be distracting, and may unearth a sense of insecurity in the performer, which is very understandable.
At times he seemed a little nervous and lacked confidence in his own ability, being especially self-deprecating about his ability on the piano, but he had no need to be. Some hilarious banter ensued throughout the night including telling a guy to take his girlfriend home as he caught her falling asleep – “She has enough alt country for the night, take her home while you still can” :)
After playing for ages it looked like there would be no encore and that he had just played straight through. After "Come Pick Me Up" the house lights went up as did the crowd to a standing ovation, and Ryan seemed delighted heading off. I put the coat on and started to head out, and just as we were all remarking on what a great night it was, the lights went down and back he came, announcing
“I know it’s passed curfew, but to hell with it”. He played 6 more. He ruffled through his songbook like a mad scientist and handpicked some gems, including some audience requests. He was hesitant to play "Dear Chicago" when it was shouted out but thankfully obliged. He was not happy with the outcome himself but it was one hell of a rendition. Someone right at the end shouted for "Goodnight Rose" and misheard it for "Goodnight Bob" and he then lashed into an off the cuff tune about a guy who owned a failed Laundromat and a crap car. Seeing as there was nothing that could really follow that, the evening drew to a close. A very funny end to an amazing night and off he went content to another standing ovation. One of the best gigs I was ever at, if not the best. Thanks for an amazing weekend and well worth the trip from Limerick. Cheers!
Oh My Sweet Carolina
Why Do They Leave?
Please Do Not Let Me Go
If I Am a Stranger
New York, New York
My Winding Wheel
Let It Ride
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
The Rescue Blues
Kiss Improv - Take That Girl Home
This House is Not for Sale
Come Pick Me Up
English Girls Approximately
Goodnight Bob Improv