Ryan Adams Supported By Chris Stills At Grand Opera House York


Dragons, Mariah Carey and Snake Puppets

As we approached the Grand Opera House we were welcomed by a large queue that snaked around a corner and was over a hundred long, I was accompanied by my 8 month pregnant wife so we looked for a seat near the back of the queue but fortunately the back doors opened and we entered without queuing at all, bonus! The Grand Opera House is a labyrinth of narrow corridors that lead to a variety of rooms, many with bars, which is were we sat for half an hour, just enough time for a refreshing £4.20 pint of Tuborg!

Chris Stills walks on stage bang on 8PM to a welcoming crowd who were expecting good things considering his parentage (Stephen Stills of CSN). We were not disappointed Chris performed five tracks, three acoustic guitar tracks and a couple on the piano, the first song SWEET CALIFORNIA got the crowd nostalgic and demonstrated his vocal range and musicianship. He appeared to be humbled by the reaction of the audience to his songs, which I imagine were the first taste of Stills for most of the audience, he seemed to really enjoy the show and commented on the beauty and history of York.

Ryan Adams stumbles on stage at 9PM wearing a Leather Jacket, which is soon removed to reveal a RATT T-shirt; this isn’t the only time the 80’s heavy metal band get a mention. Ryan rattles through four tracks including SWEET CAROLINA without acknowledging his adoring fans, this sets alarm bells ringing in this viewers heads as Ryan is known to suffer occasional moods, it has been reported many times that he hasn’t in recent tours looked comfortable on stage. Although this concern was quickly put to bed as Ryan comments on an audience members whoop at the end WINDING WHEEL, “Has someone released some snakes, in my head that sounded like boa constrictors” then after a few more tracks he talks about how York is great but has suffered at the hands of dragons, and that he would see off such beasts by boring them to death with conversations about RATT’s latest album.

It soon becomes apparent that Ryan doesn’t have a set list as such, he obviously wants to showcase his latest album and delivers some outstanding performances including CHAINS OF LOVE, DIRTY RAIN and the album title track ASHES & FIRE. However his approach is to literally flick through his songs which have been filed into plastic wallets, often flicking backwards and forwards, occasionally pondering over song choices, pulling out whatever takes his fancy. HOW DO YOU KEEP LOVE ALIVE is another track that his performed to complete stillness. One of the other stand out songs is a piano version of possibly his most well known song NEW YORK, which appeared in the middle of the set and finished with Ryan whispering to his piano. At the middle point of the gig Ryan announces that he better start working the stage and moves to the right of the stage were he decides that the setting needs to be a little more intimate, after a whispered request for the lighting guy to dim the lights failed, Ryan gets out his fictitious laser guns out of his back pockets and starts to shoot the lights which remained impenetrable.

Adams continues to work the stage offering nonsensical meanings and interpretations to his songs; pulling out songs from the full range of his oeuvre including a few from his days in Whiskeytown. It’s around about this time when he informs the audience that his début solo album was entitled Heartbreaker because he needed a title and his inspiration came from a poster in his bedroom, which was none other than Mariah Carey!

Ryan made the audience wait five minutes before coming back on for the encore, during this time the audience continue to whoop, cheer and encourage Adams without a lull. He comes back on and receives a rapturous applause, interacting with the spectators between songs. He gets into a discussion with one member who was standing up waiting to see what the next song is, realising that this fan is debating whether or not to go to the toilet, Adams spits out “go or you’ll mess yourself”, he even offers to play a long version of a track so that the fan won’t miss the final track. This discussion lasts for a couple of minutes which appears to upset a spectator on the first floor who asks Ryan to stop talking. This is not liked by the performer, which leads to the invisible sock puppets to come out and in a squeaky childlike voice (think Elmo of Sesame Street) Ryan firmly tells the rowdy fan to stop talking that it’s his show and that he will talk to who he wants, that pretty much shuts the vocal member up, there is lots of this buffoonery throughout his set which makes the spectatorship aspect so endearing.

The second date on this tour comes to end after 2 hours and 15 minutes, Ryan plays 6 encore songs including the finale COME PICK ME UP which is lapped up by the audience, he bows, waves and smiles before exiting the stage. Next stop is Edinburgh, I wonder what repartee awaits them, dragons and laser beams? Mariah Carey and RATT? One things for sure I wish I could follow this tour around Europe, he without doubt seems to be in a much better place than previous tours and appears to enjoy the music and interaction with his fans, which often leads to strange and weird places.

Ryan Adams Official Website

Follow Ryan on Twitter: TheRyanAdams

By CarlP on November 8, 2011

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