Before I get into my mini-review of Ryan Adams’ show in Berkeley on Tuesday night, I should state a few facts for the record about my almost-relationship with Ryan Adams. Forgive me in advance for the indulgence — I need to get a few things out of the way.
- I grew up in Greenville, NC — about 70 miles from Ryan’s hometown of Jacksonville (not to be confused with the Jacksonville in Florida in the same way that the Greenville I grew up in shouldn’t be confused with the one in South Carolina). There was nothing between us but Kinston, and that ain’t saying much (see map). (Ryan, if you’re reading this, I know you’re at least chuckling.) Ryan put in best in his song “Jacksonville Skyline” (note: Jacksonville doesn’t have a skyline): Well, Jacksonville’s a city with a hopeless streetlight / Seems like you’re lucky if it ever changes from red to green (off Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia, one of my all-time favorite albums, period)
- One night in the summer of 1995, I had nothing to do one night and my friend David Menconi invited me out to see a band in Raleigh that I had never heard of and really didn’t care about (I think it was this show — only their 7th outing). The band was fronted by Ryan Adams, who I only knew as a guy who played in the Patty Duke Syndrome, a local punk rock band. The transition to “alt-country” didn’t make sense to me, but Ryan explained it in the first Whiskeytown 7-inch, “Angels are Messengers from God”: I started this damn country band / ‘cuz punk rock was too hard to sing. I first encountered this 7-inch when I did the 2-5am Monday morning shift at WXDU (I followed the much-more-lively Sunday night 11pm-2am hip-hop show, and I always felt like I was breaking up a party when I arrived for my shift and segued over to my set. Well, ok, I actually was breaking up a party every time).
- I came this close to having Whiskeytown play a house-warming party in my backyard when I lived in Raleigh in 1995.
- Tenuous connection #345: My favorite band while I was in Raleigh (in the era of Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, et. al.) was Picasso Trigger. Lisa Cooper, the guitarist, became a good friend of mine when we found ourselves washing dishes and delivering pizzas at the same suburban Pizza Hut (see #2 in “Five things you don’t know about me“). I had a major punk rock crush on Kathy Poindexter, the lead singer of Picasso Trigger. I think Ryan did, too: he wrote “Lo-fi Tennessee Mountain Angel” for her. (side note: John, the drummer from Picasso Trigger at the time, made it on “The Price is Right” shortly after I left NC. I helped him change the tire on his van once. Another brush with fame.) Lisa Cooper, if you are out there, email me! The last time I saw you, we ended up a party in Atlanta and the Indigo Girls showed up. Decidedly not punk rock.
OK, with that out of the way, here’s the mini-review, and I emphasize “mini.”
First of all, I feel sorry for the folks who caught Ryan in SF on Monday night if this SF Weekly review is on target: “The whole atmosphere gave off the sterile vibe of a show neutered of any spontaneity. . .” The Berkeley show was as spontaneous as any Ryan Adams or Whiskeytown show I’ve seen. Contrast the SF Weekly review with what these bloggers said:
“as most of us settled into our seats, Ryan went up and down the aisles taking song requests from fans all over the theatre, kneeling down or grabbing an empty seat nearby in order to attain eye-level with them as they shared a conversation.” [link]
“Ryan Adams was really funny and made everyone laugh the whole time: he barked into the mike randomly and whispered weird things about how he gets wedgies often, and then violenlty unwegied himself.” [link]
“He was so funny throughout the show, lots of very entertaining banter between songs…about Cheez-Its, his not-boxer-but-not-brief underwear that was driving him crazy, all kinds of hilarious stuff. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. It was a great night, and well worth being ridiculously tired today!” [link]
“5 stars for one of the best shows of 2007.” (Nicholas H. on Yelp)
“He was definitely the most chatty and entertaining between songs as I’ve heard in a long time. From singing an impromptu custom birthday song to a girl a few rows up from us named Summer Rae Brown (it’ll be the smash hit of her summer for sure) to making up poems about his love for Cheez-Its (me too, Ryan, me too) it was hilarious.” [link]
Aside from his engagement with the audience, this was a great show, plain and simple. The band was ridiculously tight without seeming at all mechanical, and I felt that sense of amazement that you only feel at a Great Rock Show. All I can say is: wow. Ryan is a certified Rock Star.
Here’s the setlist:
A Kiss Before I Go
Please do not let me go
Happy Birthday (Summer Rae Brown)
When Stars Go Blue
I Taught Myself How To Grow Old
Let it Ride
Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part
What Sin Replaces Love
Shakedown On 9th Street
I See Monsters