Ryan Adams @ the Orpheum 27/6/17
Ryan Adams, a talkative and rambunctious North Carolinian guitarist and songwriter, shared selections from his most recent album effort Prisoner on June 27th in Vancouver. Performing to an enthusiastic audience at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, Adams dished out compositions from throughout his productive musical career. With over thirteen studio albums, Adams and his supporting band enjoyed the luxury of an evolving setlist that substantially differed from his performance at Victoria’s Alex Goodin Hall the previous night. The ornate and intimate setting of the Orpheum appeared to put Adams in good spirits. “I’ve never played here in a good mood before, how about that?” quipped the singer in one of his many interactions with the audience. Throughout the evening, Adams would repeatedly connect with the audience, cracking jokes about iPads and speaking to the packed theatre as if addressing a small room of friends or acquaintances. Although he called out individuals in the crowd, Adams’ demeanor playfully interacted with his audience.
As a personality, Ryan Adams certainly packs a rebellious, if mainstream, style of charm. From the get-go the country-tinged North Carolinian embraced the audience. Adams’ peculiar personality was also evident in his stage setup framed with piles of old TV sets, and stuffed animal tigers perched atop towering stacks of vintage amplifiers. The stage setup also featured two microphones; Adams spent most of the set in the rear centre of the stage, interacting with his four supporting musicians which did much to retain the immediacy of sporadic and spontaneous live performance. During a few numbers, Adams approached the forward microphone to perform solo, or in the case of the title track from Prisoner, half of the song by himself before his supporting musicians knocked the track into a country-rock rhythm. The evening’s most endearing moment must have been Adam’s impromptu acoustic song where he interacted with a few members of the audience and meandered in lyrical thought at the expense of George Lucas.
Playing support for the evening, Karen Elson brought an unusually arranged four piece band including two guitars, a violin, and harp but no rhythm section. Although the violin and harp occasionally offered some compelling touches to the song-craft, the guitar work, quiet as it was, generally overpowered the other stringed instruments. Similar to Ryan Adams, Elson’s latest album enters on a recent breakup with a star. In her case, Jack White of the White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather. Somehow, Hollywood breakups do not carry much authentic sentiment, almost as celebrity marriages sometimes look a bit like a calculated career decision. Just like the opener, Adam’s compositional heartbreaks, while amicably performed and potentially satisfying the converted, seem unlikely to draw in many converts. With a pleasant and intriguing stage presence, pressing work culture and overall surplus of attitude, Ryan Adams has the style and swagger but the depressive angle of his post Mandy-Moore divorce record is not his strongest side.