Margaret Court Arena is the little sister stadium to Rod Laver Arena and named to honour Australian Tennis star Margaret Court. It will probably be renamed after the said famous tennis star recently expressed homophobic views in a letter to the West Australian newspaper, stating that she would no longer fly with Qantas Airlines owing to the Qantas CEO ‘s support for same sex marriage.
Ryan Adams, the star of Friday night’s stellar show remarked on twitter that as a Pagan he strongly supports marriage equality and has since dubbed the venue Marriage Equality Arena. Ryan Adams has never been one for political comment, but since the advent of Trump he, like many other artists, has become more vocal on current social and political issues.
A sign of the New World dystopia in which we live these days, and as a reaction to recent terrorist attacks, there was a long queue at the approach to the entry doors of the arena, where every concert goer was individually searched and scanned before they could enter. This led to a delay in the evening’s time table, not necessarily affecting the support act, The Middle Kids, but causing the Ryan Adams’ set to start later than scheduled. At least that’s what Ryan Adams said at the end of his two hour performance; due to a curfew, rushing through the last two songs in lieu of an encore.
Anyway, on to the concert…
After enduring the security screening on entering the arena, my friend B and I, after a brief visit to the Merchandise Table, found our seats and discovered that they weren’t too bad at all, a centre spot on the lower level that provided an excellent view of the stage, but a bit far away for decent non noisy photos. It was my first time at Margaret Court Arena, so I was not sure what to expect. As stadiums go, it was quite intimate in vibe and has a capacity for about 6,500 to 7000 people.
I did not take much heed to the support act other than to note that they were very loud. We basically caught the last half of their set by the time we took our seats.
After watching the roadies set up the stage for Ryan Adams, it was about an hour’s wait for the main act. I’m glad I opted for seated tickets, and didn’t envy the general admission standing crowd. At my age I don’t think I could stand for however many hours they were obliged to.
Favouring a low tech set, Ryan Adams decorates the stage with big amplifiers and banks of TV screens, and stuffed toy cats - three tigers, what appeared to be an ocelot, and a cardboard cut out of a cat perched on one the amplifiers.
So it was approaching 9.30pm before Ryan Adams and The Unknown Band took the stage and launched into the first song of the set, Do You Still Love Me?, the opening track on Ryan Adams latest album Prisoner, then followed with the second track on Heartbreaker – Ryan’s first solo recording of 2000 – To Be Young.
Prisoner is a really likeable album that grows on you the more you play it, so it was no trial to be treated to quite a few songs from the record – Outbound Train, Prisoner, Doomsday and To Be Without You (my favourite song on Prisoner) – interspersed with older tunes from Ryan Adams 15 album back catalogue.
The Unknown Band sounded great for most of the songs, though I found myself longing for Ryan’s former band The Cardinals when they played songs from that era (2005-2009), ie Magnolia Mountain, Let It Ride etc., still vividly recalling the concert at the Forum in January 2009 – one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The arrangements seemed strange and somewhat clunky to me who has heard better versions in the past.
There was very little chit chat from Ryan during the concert, the songs being performed in fast sequence with hardly a pause, Ryan occasionally performing solo in the midst of what was a predominantly rock n roll set, his beautiful voice as always carrying clearly across the expanse of the arena.
The Melbourne audience was, as is generally the case, quietly appreciative and I did not witness any bad behaviour, acknowleged by Ryan, referring to his recent show at Byron Bay which was spoiled by disinterested attendees who chatted loudly throughout his set.
This may be the last time that Ryan Adams will visit Australia, so I’m glad I got to see him perform live one more time. Ryan Adams suffers from Meniere's disease, a chronic disorder of the inner ear that is exacerbated by long distance flights.
He’s a real trooper of a performer who gives his all in concerts despite his disability.
Ryan Adams Setlist
1. Do You Still Love Me?
2. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
3. Gimme Something Good
5. Dirty Rain
6. Outbound Train
7. Stay With Me
9. Magnolia Mountain
10. Fix It
11. Wonderwall (Oasis cover)
13. When the Stars Go Blue
14. My Winding Wheel
15. Invisible Riverside
16. Let It Ride
17. Cold Roses
19. To Be Without You
20. Everybody Knows
22. Peaceful Valley
23. New York, New York
24. Shakedown on 9th Street