It was a chilly night in old Melbourne town last Sunday evening, and keen fans queued early to get good positions in the general admission sold out show, myself among them (I arrived at around 6.25). There was a delay in opening the doors, so it was around 7.20pm that the audience was finally permitted to enter the lavish interior of the Forum Theatre, where the Gods smile down on the masses from their plinths on the walls and along the aisles.
I was disappointed to discover that my favourite booth up the front, along with the other front booths, was reserved. It was my understanding that General Admission is on a first come, first served basis and I was unaware that seats could be booked.
So, unwilling at my age to stand for hours in the mosh pit, I was obliged to grab what seating I could farther back than I would have liked – hence the less than perfect photos I managed to snap.
All the above inconveniences were more than compensated for by the quality of entertainment on offer, and that included the support act, American singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.
Admittedly I am not all that au fait with Jenny Lewis’ artistic output, possessing only Rabbit Fur Coat in my CD collection, which I have not listened to for years. Her latest record Voyager was produced by Ryan Adams, so naturally she sang a few songs from it, Just One Of The Guys and She’s Not Me are the tunes I recognised from my You Tube research on the artist leading up the show. Originally she was associated with rock band Rilo Kiley and in my opinion the songs she played last night from that era of her career were the winners. Acid Tongue is a great song from her first solo record, whereas Portions For Foxes dates back to her time with Rilo Kiley.
Her set was engaging and entertaining and she looked a treat playing her rainbow hued guitar, dressed in a white trouser suit. She had an ace band supporting her, but I’m unable to find details of their names, though several were female.
Ryan Adams and The Shining trooped onto the stage at around 9.15pm and instantly launched into the first track on the recent Ryan Adams Self Titled album, Gimme Something Good, closely following that with the bouncy Let It Ride from Cold Roses.
I felt the first half of the show was a little flat, but the band warmed up over the two hours they played and by the end of the night I was totally enthralled. The set list encompassed songs from most of Ryan Adams back catalogue of albums and included many favourites of mine – Oh My Sweet Carolina (Jenny Lewis joined him for this), When The Stars Go Blue, La Cienega Just Smiled, and particularly Sweet Illusions, rarely performed live, which I was really hoping he would sing. There were other rarities, in terms of the concerts I have witnessed, like I See Monsters, Nobody Girl and To Be Young.
It was mostly a rock n roll concert with several songs ending in extended jams, where Ryan was able to channel his inner rock child. Quieter ballads were interspersed with the rockier numbers so it was a wisely chosen sequence of songs.
The last few Ryan Adams shows I have attended were dimly lit, but Sunday night you could actually see Ryan’s face distinctly. He suffers from Meniere’s Disease, an affliction of the inner ear, and bright flashing lights exacerbate the problem. He obviously is concerned about the lighting in his shows, and found a sympathetic lighting technician in Gigi to whom he composed a Happy Birthday song off the cuff in gratitude. It was funny and clever. He also passed a birthday cake into the audience to be delivered to the lady in question in the lighting section at the middle of the theatre.
Gigi created some wonderful lighting effects, the twinkling blue stars in the background being particularly appropriate.
The Shining are a completely different band to the Cardinals (Ryan Adams former band) both in style and sound. The Cardinals had a touch of country twang and gorgeous ringing guitars, whereas The Shining are more a straight rock n roll band. They are guitarist Mike Viola, bassist Charlie Stavish, drummer Freddie Bokkenheuser and keyboardist Daniel Clarke.
It was great to hear New York, New York played in the fast tempo it was originally recorded in. All the previous times I’ve seen Ryan Adams live, it has been sung in a distinctly slow bluesy fashion – very nice too.
I ended up not going to the second concert, as the friend I was accompanying cried off, so I found another taker for the tickets, a Ryan Adams fan, who was pleased to purchase them at a discounted price.
Ryan Adams and The Shining played for a solid two hours, so it was after midnight by the time I got home. As a result I felt rather tired yesterday, so felt relieved I did not have to go through the hassle of getting to the theatre, waiting in the queue etc. etc. again.
And the verdict?
Every Ryan Adams concert I have attended (seven now) has been different and you never really know what to expect. This year’s concert was probably not the best I’ve seen, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. I’ve always thought that the Cardinals show at the Forum in January 2009 was the best, closely followed by his solo show at The Regent in March 2012. Sunday’s show is probably my third favourite Ryan Adams concert.
Anyway, it’s always a thrill to see Ryan Adams live in concert – I’ll certainly attend for as long as I am able.
Ryan Adams Set List
- Gimme Something Good (Self Titled)
- Let It Ride (Cold Roses)
- Stay With Me (Self Titled)
- Dirty Rain (Ashes & Fire)
- This House Is Not For Sale (Love Is Hell)
- Dear Chicago (Demolition)
- Magnolia Mountain (Cold Roses)
- My Winding Wheel (Heartbreaker)
- To Be Young (Heartbreaker)
- Peaceful Valley (Jacksonville City Nights)
- Kim (Self Titled)
- Oh My Sweet Carolina (Heartbreaker)
- When the Stars Go Blue (Gold)
- Shakedown on 9th Street (Heartbreaker)
- My Baby Don't Understand Me (Natalie Prass cover)
- New York, New York (Gold)
- Improv song: happy birthday GiGi
- I See Monsters (Love Is Hell)
- Sweet Illusions (Cold Roses)
- La Cienega Just Smiled (Gold)
- Trouble (Self Titled)
- Nobody Girl (Gold)
- Come Pick Me Up (Heartbreaker)