(Updated) Ryan Adams survival guide: Things to know before you go

Update (12/5/12): Full review and setlist from the show just posted.

Update (12:53 p.m.): So check this out: A couple more things you should know here: First of all, Friday's show has been postponed until tomorrow night (Saturday) due to inclement weather (shocker, we know). Secondly, whatever sensationalist malarkey you've read about Ryan Adams being some sort of uptight, humorless curmudgeon or whatever, we're happy to report that that's complete bullshit. Dude is every bit as amiable as you'd imagine. Oh, sure, he probably gets grumpy every now and then, but don't we all? We can tell you this first hand because we just got off the phone with him a few minutes ago.

Evidently, somebody tweeted him a link to this post, and he wanted to clear a few things up, because, well, he cares about that sort of thing, and he's good like that. He wasn't worked up about it or anything. Just wanted to clarify some things. It was a very casual conversation that lasted about fifteen minutes and started off with him marveling about being in Denver and lamenting the fact that he missed a meteor shower that streaked across the sky here and ended with him indulging a fanboy-worthy question about "Come Pick Me Up."

What a great fucking song that is, eh! But we digress. Uh, where were we...

Oh, yeah, the survival guide below. Turns out, the blogosphere might've made the whole thing sound slightly more draconian than it really is: First of all, the Cardinals thing -- it's pretty obvious that the Cardinals will not be on hand. This is something we didn't necessarily need to point out; the Cardinals will no sooner be on hand tomorrow night than Whiskeytown will be. Just the same, there have been folks in other cities that grumbled after the fact that Ryan appeared solo, so we just put that out there sort of preemptively. You know, just in case.

The rest of our tips really were meant to give you an idea of what to expect at the show. Given that this performance is taking place at the Temple Buell, it's going to be a little more elegant of a setting. So the whole thing about photography not being permitted, no alcohol being served and taking care not to be disruptive with trips to the bathroom, these are not necessarily absolutes, but rather considerations put forth to respect the integrity of the performance and perhaps curtail some of the incessant distractions that tend to plague shows these days.

Ryan tells us that he has weathered some disruptions along the way, but that he'd prefer not to throw "pizza at pizza," as he put it, and he's not about to start dadding everybody if somebody gets out of hand. For the most part, everybody's been respectful on this tour, and he doesn't anticipate this show being any different. As for the booze, well, that's really something left to the discretion of each venue. The house rules abide. Ryan assures us he has made no special requests of management or anybody else to institute some ironclad prohibition policy.

Bottom line: Ryan Adams is not trying to make this a joyless, legalistic experience for everyone. From what we get, he really just wants people to hear the nuances of his songs in an intimate environment and experience the show without all the peripheral distractions created by (and now synonymous with) this modern era.

Steve Martin, Ryan's publicist at Nasty Little Man, puts a finer point on it. He sent us a note clarifying some points in our survival guide not too long after this item was posted, and that missive spurred this whole conversation with Ryan in the first place. While his email was admittedly a bit snarky, it was also pretty spot on and, well, sort of awesome. That said, we've annotated the original piece with his comments. -- Dave Herrera


Original post: 2/3/12, 10:00 a.m. •

After a long period of struggle in both his musical and personal lives, Ryan Adams is back in full force. Last fall during a rare intimate performance at Su Teatro (captured by That's the Thing About That), Denver got a sneak peek of Adams's latest tour, which features the songwriter performing large opera houses and ambient theaters, alone with a stool and his acoustic guitars. There's distinct drama in his most recent approach to his audience -- but it turns out there are also a lot of rules. Among other changes, Adams has ditched the Cardinals and taken on zero-tolerance policies on photography and rude concert etiquette. In advance of the show, we've put together a survival guide of sorts for you so that you know what you're in for tonight based on recent performances. Page down for the full rundown.


A great deal has changed within Ryan Adams's soundsphere since his time with the Cardinals. Three years ago, he married Mandy Moore, sobered up, disbanded his alt-country band, took a break from touring and began stockpiling all of his previously unreleased material. Through his October solo album, Ashes & Fire, we're led to believe that Adams escaped this period unscathed and unfazed, a little raw for the wear but with a deeper, clearer and more intimate shade of voice and self-awareness than we've seen from him in years. In making himself more vulnerable, Adams has made his second act a must-see.


The Cardinals will not be there A heavy amount of Internet surprise has been devoted to attendees recording their bewilderment that Adams is not accompanied by his longtime band. In January 2009, Adams split from the Cardinals after Ménière's disease lowered his health and a quickly increasing disillusionment with the music industry in general lowered his spirits. They will not be there. He will.

"Your Ryan Adams piece is so sensationalized. Really tabloid-y and over-dramatic. The Cardinals not being there is a surprise? Ryan hasn't been playing with them for years, they're not on the current record, and this tour has been playing reviewed in every major market in the U.S. and abroad since last fall. This is not news."

Setlist Adams' most recent setlists have been a glorious exploration of his career to date. Disillusioned or not, the savvy singer-songwriter is delving deep into his back catalog on this tour, rehashing hits from as far back as his Heartbreaker days while mixing in a light handful of material from his latest solo effort, Ashes & Fire. The creative mix lends itself to long sets peppered with a handful of covers including Alice in Chains and, of course, his take on Oasis' "Wonderwall."

No Alcohol? Maybe not tonight, at least during the show. If you've read any of the reviews from his most recent tour, you'll notice a generous amount of bitter asides and bitter commenters. One of these revolves around a strange and recurring ban on alcohol in many of the venues the singer has appeared at. While the staff of the Buell couldn't comment on any orders regarding drinks, Adams' publicist confirms the trend: "At some shows they have sold alcohol but nothing is allowed into the theater," says Nasty Little Man's Dana West. "This was the case at the Carnegie Hall show that I saw in December. And yes, at other shows I have heard they haven't sold alcohol period."

"It's an intimate one man theater show, no more no less. There is no "strange and recurring ban on alcohol," it's just not allowed in the theater and the bars are shut down once performance begins, same with photography. Much as when I've seen anyone else play in this kind of environment. You've never seen a one man solo acoustic show?"

Cell phone photos? Afraid not. Don't even think about it. The outlawed items don't end there. After a recent show in Louisville, Kentucky, one reviewer wrote that the "security staff -- in particular one lady who put the fear of God into the entire Orchestra C -- was patrolling the crowd like it was Cell Block C at Alcatraz. And if you were so foolish as to even flash the backlit screen of your phone momentarily, you were descended upon with klieg lights and a stern admonition to PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE." Cell phone photography is highly discouraged, says West, and the Buell will be carefully monitored for rulebreakers. You can still bring them, just don't take them out. "Nobody is going to take anyone's cell phone away," West says, "and they aren't collected before the show or anything."

"The cell phone thing is a request not an edict. At Carnegie Hall, Ryan was even joking about it. He can't personally control how every security person conveys an artist's request."

Actually, make that photography of any kind. Ain't happening, buster! Seriously. No photos. Of any kind. Outside of the crackdown on cell phone cameras, professional photography is also prohibited. Even press photographers have been stripped of picture privileges during this tour in an effort to crack down on concert images and the distractions they can cause.

Potty breaks should probably be kept to a minimum. During recent sets, Adams has asked audience members to leave only between songs, which is a nicety, to be sure, but a strictly enforced one. At recent shows, in order to return to your seat, you must wait outside the theater until he has completely finished a song before being allowed inside. This is an acoustic tour, and Mr. Adams takes that seriously.

"And the potty break thing is just nonsense. Every theater that hosts acoustic shows or plays has signs posted that say "no one in or out during performance." That's not a tour policy. Come on."

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple

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