Ryan Adams and the Sweetheart Revolution, Brixton Academy

Highs and lows from an over-the-top rocker who can tease, please and frustrate
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Precocious, prolific and on a previous showing in London a past master at playing the prima donna, Ryan Adams begins his show with a tease.

The stage is in darkness and the DJ cues up a song by Sir Elton John, the most famous member of Ryan's celebrity fan club. The audience's boos get even louder when this is followed by Sophie Ellis Bextor's "Murder on the Dance Floor" but the song that starts the show for real "Firecracker" blows what has come before into oblivion.

Flanked by two similarly tousled, skinny-legged bass and guitar players Ryan Adams looks like he has just joined his current favourite band The Strokes but the sound, a glorious wash of organ, country, swing and seething dynamics, holds more in common with his musical forebears particularly Springsteen in full flight.

On "To Be Young" the momentum continues, the chorus "I get high" isn't echoed around the hall but Ryan sings like he believes it will be. The immediate impression is that recent criticism that has followed in the wake of glowing notices for Adams' second album Gold had been taken to heart.

Tonight's show is not without pauses, hammy mannerisms and on one fateful occasion Ryan's attempts at telling jokes, complete with drum rolls but there seems to be a determination to prove himself worthy of the acclaim.

But even some of his best material suffers through his love of melodrama and overarching mannerisms. 'Rescue Blues' is a case in point. The gospel meets mid-1970s Stones tension that the song attains on record was lost as he teetered on his boot heels performing a Keith Richards impersonation with his distinctive vibrato on overdrive.

"Psalms" was even worse, beginning as a stealthy journey into noir funk Ryan discarded his guitar and did his Jim Morrison meets Nick Cave impersonation. Was this a new stylistic string to his bow? No it was ludicrous pomposity.

The solid "Answering Bell" brought him back to firmer ground but even there the exaggerated stop-starts and general preening detracted from the song itself.

It was a frustrating show of highs such as the genius hybrid of "Touch Feel" and "Loose" which managed to sound like Johnny Cash performing doo-wop packed by a Lynryd Skynryd-powered freight train. But there were also lows, such as a truly excruciating "Street Walker Blues" with a display of overcooked musical histrionics which beggared belief.

However, the celebrity fan club was there in evidence for the encore. Adams paid tribute to another of his own fav-ourites, Oasis, with a version of "Wonderwall" and duetted with Noel Gallagher on 'Morning Glory".