"Thought I'd pick it up a little bit," Ryan Adams quipped before hitting the opening chords to "Sweet Lil Gal." The joke being that the evening's setlist featured mostly cheerless ballads dealing in depression and lost love.
At 37, the
has been on the rock and alt-country circuit since the mid-nineties – getting
his start as the front man for the group Whiskeytown. Since leaving the band to go solo in 1999, North Carolina Adams developed a reputation as a temperamental performer
as well as a gifted songwriter. Since
2000, he has released 13 studio albums including last year's excellent release
"Ashes and Fire."
Much like that album, Wednesday night's show at the Music Hall was a stripped down affair.
played a two hour and fifteen minute solo set with a simple stage set up
consisting of only a piano, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. And it worked – making for a compelling and
The night opened with "Oh My Sweet Carolina," a somber piece that set the mood for the night's song selection, which drew from his twelve-year solo career. Highlights included "Winding Wheel," "Dirty Rain," and his unique rendition of the Oasis hit "Wonderwall" that sounds better than its source material.
even revisited his time in Whiskeytown by playing "16 Days."
"This song's almost optimistic," he said prior to playing "Invisible Riverside," which opens with the lines "I guess I'll show my hand/Either way I'm losing."
The closest thing to an upbeat moment came during a nice version of the lyrically smart "English Girls Approximately," but it seemed the way
Adams wanted it.
Between songs, Adams made up for such bleak subject matter by joking with the near sellout crowd, telling strange stories about rednecks, and singing impromptu songs about a pet badger, finding 20 dollars, and newborn kittens. A few of these improvised songs came close to reaching the four-minute mark, but to
credit, he kept them humorous enough so it never seemed gratuitous or
But during the beautiful "Sweet Illusion,"
did manage to get in the way of himself by stopping momentarily to point out
how clever he found some of his lyrics.
It was the show's only misstep, but it did spoil what could have
otherwise been one of the night's best songs.
Toward the show's end, Adams played another impromptu song thanking the audience and summarizing the nights between-song humor and chitchat – a nice touch that showed
Adams can be a great performer if he
wants to be.
Setlist: Oh My Sweet Carolina; Ashes & Fire; If I am a Stranger; Dirty Rain; Winding Wheel; Sweet Lil Gal; Invisible Riverside; Everybody Knows; Firecracker; Let it Ride; Rescue Blues; Please Do Not Let Me Go; English Girls Approximately; Chains of Love; Two; Lucky Now; Wonderwall; New York, New York; 16 Days; Come Pick Me Up; When Will You Come Back Home; Sweet Illusion