The Ambassador Theatre, 20th October 2001
I read somewhere before going to the gig that Ryan Adams can be a hit and miss performer. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether he struck gold with the performance on Saturday night or whether he was way off base. Probably somewhere in between is the most accurate description, although I'd be swayed more towards the golden edge of the spectrum. Seated upstairs in the Ambassador the crowd was a varied mix, the four people in front of me averaged about 50 years of age and to my left was a boy who couldn't have been more than 12. Obviously his music has a wide appeal.
With two albums under his belt since his departure from Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams came to Dublin jet lagged but still in fine singing form. Doors were at eight and when he arrived on stage at half past eight, everyone was a little surprised. There was no support band though the ticket had stated support would be provided by Corina Round. I think the audience wasn't too sure it was really him until he broke into "Firecracker" after opening with an unknown song. His early start probably means that some would have missed the beginning, which will have left many fans very disappointed.
He played songs from his latest album 'Gold' such as 'Answering Bell', 'Touch Feel Lose', 'Nobody Girl', 'Someday, Somehow' and 'The Rescue Blues' but also included a couple from 'Heartbreaker' notably 'To be Young' and 'Oh Sweet Carolina'. There was a long guitar instrumental on 'Tina Toledo's St Walkin Blues' when he seemed to get swept away by the music, leaving the audience behind. He effortlessly crossed the blues, country and rock divides and excelled in all genres. His vodka and red bull fuelled performance might have gotten a little wayward as the night wore on but his superb song writing skills and powerful voice pulled him through. The band consisted of a bass guitarist, another lead guitarist, a keyboard player, a drummer and a pedal steel guitarist whose slide guitar playing added a nice bluesy feel to the proceedings.
The band left the stage at ten o'clock and Ryan returned alone and acoustic to play a song dedicated to Beth. His initial reserve was gradually replaced with some humorous banter with the crowd, including mention of Ireland's rugby win and an impromptu song about the "Grade 3" style piano. There was almost total silence for the solo songs, including a beautiful rendition of "Goodnight Hollywood Blvd" on the piano. Then the full band returned for a rocking 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', to which the crowd went wild. They left the stage at twenty past ten and never returned. The abrupt ending left the crowd shouting for more. Nobody wanted to believe it was over but when the roadies started clearing the stage we knew it was the end. With no proper goodbye the crowd was left hanging, unsatisfied, he had so much more to offer. There were some obvious omissions like 'Come Pick me up' and 'Winding Wheel' and when I saw the set list for the October 3rd Irving Plaza gig in New York, when he performed a total of 22 songs, I felt robbed. Sort of.
Currently flavour of the month with Elton John but don't let that put you off, at 26 he is a musical force to be reckoned with. He has written more songs than can ever be played at one concert. My advice - buy the albums and prepare for his next visit!