Ryan Adams Soars In St. Louis

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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There were two kinds of people who attended Ryan Adams’ show in St. Louis on Sunday night: those who wanted to watch the gig sitting down, and those who wanted to watch the gig standing up.

Kudos to Ryan —who, back in his off-the-wagon days, was infamous for starting fights during his concerts rather than resolving them —for keeping the peace.

“I’m noticing that some people are bummed out, because they can’t see around the people who’re standing in the front row,” he said after kicking off his set with an hour of banter-free guitar-pop, talking specifically to the enthusiastic fans who’d left their seats during the second song and flocked to the front of the Peabody Opera House’s stage. “I do appreciate it, and I know that you wouldn’t be coming up here and yelling a whole bunch of random song requests if you weren’t, like, a super fan. But it seems like more people want to sit down. I think that’s fair. It’s a seated venue. If I’d come to this show, I woulda gotten super baked and just sat my ass down.”

And with that, Adams kicked into the second half of the evening, taking frequent breaks to joke with the audience and make sure everyone remained happy. And everyone did remain happy. Drawing heavily from this year’s self-titled Ryan Adams, but also dipping into everything from the Westerberg-worthy punk of 1984 to the Americana of Heartbreaker and Gold, Adams offered up a whirlwind tour of one of the 21st century’s most diverse songbooks. He covered most of “the hits,” too, playing old standbys like “New York, New York,” “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Come Pick Me Up” during a 22-song set that also included a rare, amped-up version of Love Is Hell‘s “This House is Not For Sale” and an improvised song about eating popcorn. He was happy, humorous and perhaps a bit high (at one point, lead guitarist Mike Viola announced his decision to go backstage and “smoke a bowl with Gabe” while Ryan played a solo tune, prompting the two to digress into a brief, but enthusiastic, discussion of what Tony Iommi’s bong must look like). The overall picture was of an artist who, despite riding a creative peak, wasn’t about to take himself too seriously.

Rocking a ripped jean jacket and a Robert Smith haircut, Adams looked like Edward Scissorhands transported to the Sunset Strip’s glory days, waiting to see Warrant play at Gazzarri’s. The ’80s references didn’t stop there. They literally littered the set, with two old-school arcade machines flanking a clump of Fender Princeton Reverb amps to Ryan’s right. The guitar tones were cut from some serious Reagan-era cloth, too, bouncing between different combinations of sparkle, reverb and fuzz that seemed to reference everything from the opening riff of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” to Bob Stinson’s noisy jangle.

Butch Walker, another chameleonic songwriter who’s handy in the production room, kicked off the night as Adams’ solo opener, then returned to the stage during the evening’s final song to shred some serious guitar on “Come Pick Me Up.” A firm 11:00 p.m. curfew prevented Adams and company from walking offstage during the end of the set, then returning for an encore, with Adams explaining that “we’re going to play this fake last song, then we’re going to fake leave, then you’re going to clap and we’ll fake come back for the real last song.” Again, he wasn’t taking himself too seriously, allowing his music to do most of the talking. And on Sunday night, it spoke volumes.

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