Ryan Adams at the State Theatre, 12/13/11

Categories: Last Night
ryanadamsdrawing.JPG
Author's rendering of the stage, drawn in dark
Ryan Adams
December 13, 2011
State Theatre, Minneapolis

It can't be easy, pouring your heart out every night and trying to maintain that ever-elusive sense of cool. Now that he's a few years sober, Ryan Adams' main goal as a performer seems to be walking that line, delivering delicate, poetic songs while tossing in enough wisecracks to make it seem like it all might be a big joke.

"I don't mean any of this shit. I put tacks in my shoes before the tour to feign earnestness," he insisted at one point, immediately before singing the devastating "Do I Wait." 

The entire two-and-a-half-hour show alternated between the sad and the silly, starting with a pre-recorded message that sounded like Adams himself speaking in a fake British accent and insisting we turn off all our phones or else "one of the ushers will destroy you in a sacrificial ritual." There were no cameras at this show and no drinks, either (not even water), and the sound was turned just low enough that his music could be drowned out by a nearby person whispering. It was all designed to encourage pensiveness and stillness, and it was probably the longest many of us had given our undivided attention to something in quite some time.

Adams was joined on stage by only an upright piano and a pair of stubborn acoustic guitars that refused to stay in tune, which became one of many running jokes throughout the night as he struggled with the strings prior to nearly every song. "Literally, it's like Thurston Moore came over and borrowed by guitar," he scoffed at one point. "What should I play, 'Teenage Riot'?"

The set list pulled from many corners of his career, starting with Heartbreaker's "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and leading directly into the title track of his newest album Ashes & Fire. He spent most of the slower songs seated in a chair, and then would walk over to a standing microphone for the "faster" songs, which in this case meant the ones with continual strumming instead of sparser finger-picking.

But the real treat was seeing Adams play the piano, which he did on "My Blue Manhattan" and later for Gold's "Sylvia Plath" and "New York, New York." Adams plays piano like a rhythm guitarist, all plunking quarter notes and minor seventh chords, and it added a sense of stirring sadness to "Plath" in particular, which I had never seen him perform live.

As the set neared its end, Adams' self-consciousness about his material and mood became more and more pronounced, and right before the predictable, swaying closer "Come Pick Me Up," he spent nearly 10 minutes riffing through a fake song about Sarah Connor from the Terminator and how he always imagined that the bands here went ice fishing together and "wore those hats that you have to crochet to wear. What are those called?" To which an audience member simply replied, "Hats," cracking Adams up.

"Come Pick Me Up" was a beautiful, almost overwhelmingly blue song for the end of a night spent soaking in sadness, but Adams came back for an encore that brought the energy up to its highest point. He opened with Ratt's "Round and Round," a tongue-in-cheek cover he's been pulling out all tour, and then said he was going to end with a song "by a dude from here." Everyone cringed when an audience member yelled out "Skyway" (no one wanted another Westerberg meltdown like the one Adams experienced at First Ave back in 2003), but instead of a Replacements tune he pulled out Bob Mould's "Black Sheets of Rain" and played it fiercely and convincingly. By the end, you could tell he was releasing some pent-up aggression through the song, and it might have been the most sincere thing he played all night.



Personal bias: Listening to Ryan Adams turns me into a pile of mush.
The crowd: Lots of thirtysomethings, mostly very quiet and polite.
Overheard in the crowd: Random dude: "Freebird!" Ryan Adams: "There's already reverb on my guitar, I can't add any more."
Random notebook dump: Adams kept coming back to a story about an arcade he had visited in town years ago that had since closed. I couldn't figure out what the hell he was talking about. Maybe Gameworks?

Set list:

Oh My Sweet Carolina 
Ashes & Fire  
If I Am a Stranger  
Dirty Rain  
Winding Wheel  
My Blue Manhattan 
Everybody Knows  
Firecracker  
Invisible Riverside  
Sylvia Plath  
Let It Ride  
Dear Chicago  
Chains of Love  
Houses on the Hill  
Do I Wait  
Lucky Now  
Two  
New York, New York  
Crossed Out Name  
Please Do Not Let Me Go  
16 Days  
Come Pick Me Up

Encore:
Round and Round (Ratt)
Black Sheets of Rain (Bob Mould)


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18 comments
AdamzPhan69FTW
AdamzPhan69FTW

Summer of 69 is da effing JAM!! Believe dat chit! Troof.

Kev
Kev

Wish he would have played Blue Hotel, Blue Sky Blues on piana, or La Cienga, and a few others but you cant hear em all (could still be sitting there between his 300 albums the last 15 years.  And actually, someone at a Bryan Adams concert (if he still does them, hope not whatta hack...yuk!!) should yell "play Come Pick Me Up" or something- he should be confused with DRA, NOT the other way around.  Dickwad Bilky - God I hate unfunny people.

figgyone
figgyone

After the previous 3 shows of his I had been to (where he stomped off stage and ended the show early, or he was too wasted to function, or he talked about having a smoke for the entire show) I always equated Ryan Adams with a bad boyfriend....you keep going back and hope "next time" he will be better...and last night he absolutely redeemed his previous bad behavior. I thought he was funny, at ease, rocked my world with the "come pick me up" version he played,  and really covered many songs from so many albums. I actually felt happy for him that he can maybe now enjoy his work because he isn't messed up. An epic performance I say!

Tholomew Plague
Tholomew Plague

Because we haven't heard the moldy Bryan Adams joke 10 million times ago, seriously moron get a life. I agree the show was a pretty good mix of career spanning material. Just wish he would have played more songs from the great Love Is Hell, Cold Roses and at least one song from Jacksonville City Nights. Also next time I hope he comes with a band, much prefer the rocking Ryan to the solo acoustic Ryan. All in all I gotta say I am glad his "Diva-Days" appear to be over and he was very funny between songs as well.

Kari Koehler
Kari Koehler

This was my 4th time seeing Ryan. The first was in '01 in Iowa City and it was amazing. 3 hours, good old rock and roll. He played past curfew and passed out beers, both of which I heard got him banned from playing at the U of Iowa for quite some time. Then I saw both of the infamous shows at First Ave and the State Theater. He's a great musician and I'm a huge fan, so it was great to see him playing and seeming more comfortable. I thought the jokes were funny, the songs were good and overall, everyone got what they paid for and then some- how many artists are willing to get over their pretentious selves and play songs from their other bands (in his case, Whiskeytown)- there are quite a few that refuse to do that. I thought the setlist was a great representation of his catalog- can't wait until he comes back again!

Steve Skavnak
Steve Skavnak

I thought he was talking about Pop's Arcade as well (which shut down in the early 2000s, I think)...although I don't recall that establishment serving nuclear food.

Great set by Ryan. Some people thought he was too chatty, but I really enjoy when he doesn't take himself too seriously. I can't wait for a Gorgeous Potatoes record.

zombiebaby
zombiebaby

From his comment about the omnipresent threat of Mortal Kombat-related violence, I assumed he was talking about Pop's.

Bilky
Bilky

I always loved Bryan Adams! Did he play 'Everything I Do (I do it for you)'?? LOVE LOVE LOVE that one

Guy
Guy

Really you made a fake account named AdamzPhan69FTW just to troll Ryan Adams fans?How sad is your life?

Milky
Milky

Bryan Adams is no hack, he's a very insightful icon of your generation. Did you not enjoy his show the other night? Why did you go?

Bilky
Bilky

I detect a fair amount of bitterness regarding this issue... U mad bro?

Raghav Mehta
Raghav Mehta

Minneapolis: I dare you to come up with a more tired joke. 

Milky!
Milky!

Bryan Adams is no douche. He's a very talented and accomplished musician. Shame on you!

Bilky
Bilky

Wanna talk about it?

Milky
Milky

I've got one: the local hiphop scene!

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