Ryan Adams at the Boulder Theater, 10/29/12
Half of the fun of seeing Ryan Adams live, apparently, is getting to hear all his banter. He has a fascinating duality: One minute he's completely enthralling the crowd with a heartfelt ballad, and then he bookends the tune by casually offering up a hilarious one-liner like, "There's those two people that are running for president and only one of them has seen Star Wars -- or understood Star Wars," which he told a packed Boulder Theater full Barack Obama volunteers and supporters last night.
Opening with gorgeous rendering of "Oh My Sweet Carolina," Adams was joined by his wife Mandy Moore, who added harmonies on the choruses. Within the first few strums of his red, white and blue Buck Owens American acoustic guitar, the entire venue was hushed. Well, until Moore left the stage and Adams said, "Now that she's gone we can do all the songs with the cussing in them," which got more than a few chuckles.
After the ballad "If I Am a Stranger," Adams took off his jean jacket and noted, "I can't play E-minor with a jacket on." As he got situated with his guitar, he added, "I haven't really played any of these songs since the last time I played any of these songs. So I don't know what I'm singing about."
He'd been randomly hitting a chord, possibly and E-minor, and then he stopped and said, "You know, this entire place you guys live in looks like one of those Dragon Elders book covers," which got some laughs. "What's really scary is how many people fucking knew what that meant."
While his set last night featured a lot of ballads, Adams threw in a few upbeat cuts like "Ashes and Fire" or "My Winding Wheel." He started the show sitting on a chair in middle of the stage with a music stand with a black binder of lyrics at his feet. A few songs in, he moved over to an upright piano not too far away from where he'd been sitting down. "I forgot my glasses," he said as he sat at the piano. "When I wear my glasses, on the inside of the glasses it has all the lyrics. Cost a fortune."
After getting a rousing applause from "The Rescue Blues," Adams moved to the other side of the stage where a microphone was set up for him to play standing up. "If you're just asking yourself if it can get slower, it can," he said. "Oh, it can. This one doesn't even have a tempo. It's like the tempo of a free-floating asteroid."
Before starting "Please Do Not Let Me Go," Adams tuned his guitar and said, "Sometimes I just like to stand up here and tune the guitar. I like to look busy. I tried building bookshelves but everyone got really upset. They're like, 'I didn't pay for this.' You didn't even see it. I'm not done. It's going to be so great. You got something against mahogany?"
Noah Van Sciver
While it would have been nice to just soak in the beauty of the song for a few moments after it was finished, Adams instead had us all laughing again, saying, "I have miserable songs in all keys, even suspended ones, but I don't know what they are, that only jazz guys and Bob Mould use." Adams then played some unconventional chords, saying "this stuff just comes to me."
A few songs later, after a stellar version of "Let It Ride," the crowd clapped as Adams strummed the opening chords of "English Girls Approximately," and said, "You don't know what song this is. It's like every other one of my songs," he noted. "Seriously, this is like six of my songs. I could go into six different ones right now. I could make up three and you would never know." With that, Adams made up a few lines, including "It's like a fucking John Cusack movie up here," before finally going into "English Girls Approximately."
Back at the piano a few songs later, Adams whispered some stuff into the microphone about Mr. Cat, like how he's like orange juice if it was made out of whiskers, and pointed out that even though he's not allowed to vote yet, but one day... "There's a cat that's mayor of some city somewhere," Adams said. "That's probably where the best weed is." Adams closed out his stunning two-hour set with "New York, New York" and "Come Pick Me Up" and then came back for a one-song encore, Bob Mould's "Black Sheets of Rain."
Personal Bias: I'd heard about Adams' onstage wit and humor before, but this being my first time seeing him, I was as impressed with that as his ability to completely captivate the audience.
Random detail: Adams mentioned he stopped at Black & Read.
By the way: Aside from mentioning there was a place to vote across the street, and saying "a handful of you, when you get up, you can change your bong water after you vote," Adams didn't say much that had to do with politics.
Ryan Adams Boulder Theater - 10/29/12 Boulder, CO
Oh My Sweet Carolina Ashes and Fire If I Am a Stranger Dirty Rain My Winding Wheel The Rescue Blues Please Do Not Let Me Go Do I Wait Firecracker Everybody Knows Sylvia Plath Let It Ride English Girls Approximately Chains of Love Houses on the Hill Mr. Cat New York, New York Come Pick Me Up
Black Sheets of Rain (Bob Mould cover)
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