Ryan Adams - The Palladium, London 23/04/12
Plush carpeted corridors lead to a warmly lit auditorium where ushers in starched red waistcoats and even starchier smiles politely guide you to your seat. It's all a far cry from the first time I saw Ryan Adams in the gritty bowels of Nottingham Rock City with a badly bleached mop-top, gurning his way through the words to his latest album, Rock N Roll, and living his life to the same cliche. A lot has changed in the last eight years.
A shrill Scottish accent fills the room ordering in hammy-humour that mobiles are to be turned off, flash photography is not used and generally to behave; normally the home to the Wizard Of Oz tonight the Wicked Witch isn't dead she's road-testing her best impression of Alan Cummings over the Palladium's PA. Deafening applause engulfs the room as Adams, dressed in uniform double-denim and metal band-t, strolls onto the stage with the same comfort and ease as walking into a downtown bar and takes his seat on the lone chair in the center of the stage to quietly begin picking the opening chords to, 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' in the darkness.
Tonight there are no Cardinals, just Adams' two acoustic guitars (oddly decorated with Jamaican flags), a harmonica and a grand piano. Forever the seasoned showman, he spends the set flitting between each instrument and filling the gaps happily chatting to the audience with the familiarity of talking to an old friend down the telephone phone. His sets in the past have ventured into half stand-up, half-gig, but tonight the jokes are few, well-timed and mostly funny, the 'Mr Cat' in particular. The only unnerving thing about this evening’s show is strangely the audience's reaction, which borders on sycophantic: Ryan walks to the side of the stage - laughing; Ryan sips his water - laughing, Ryan sighs - more laughing. The manly screams of 'Ryan, we love you!' somewhat destroy 'the magic'.
This very much aside, the music itself is utterly flawless. Recent shows have been straight run-through of Ashes And Fire, but tonight it's a set that ploughs the darkest of depths of his illustrious career. Old and new sit comfortably side-by-side; 'Dirty Rain's' down and out blues strides effortlessly into the tumbling country of 'Winding Wheel' before stumbling home with a tender piano-led rendition of 'The Rescue Blues'. Whilst, songs from Ashes and Fire ('Chains Of Love', 'Do I Wait', 'Lucky Now') are broken-up by lesser known tracks, of 'Everybody Knows' and Whiskeytown's '16 Days'. Most importantly, each track is played with the same earnest devotion.
The guttural plea of 'Come Pick Me Up' closes a seamless set. Playing one encore, an acoustic cover of Bob Mould's 'Black Sheets Of Rain', he leaves the stage to the same applause as he took to it and the screams of "Ryan, we love you" ring true.