Ryan Adams, O2 Academy, Glasgow
Silence is golden for a perfectionist
Wednesday 29 June 2011
For a low-key sit-down acoustic set, this show commenced with an atmosphere that bordered on the confrontational. We were told there would be no filming or photography, and all phones would be switched off and put away, a pre-recorded announcement told us. Then the gig began with "Oh My Sweet Carolina", its stark fragility punctuated by alternative-country star Ryan Adams hissing instructions to his sound guy off-mic. It seemed we were in the grasp of a perfectionist.
This slightly uncomfortable air lasted a whole two songs, until Adams chose to make his feelings clear after spotting someone filming during "Why Do They Leave?". "Sometimes concerts should just be between the audience and the performer," he called them out. "At least cover up the red light so I don't think you're D A Pennebaker and I'm in a movie." It was sharp but it broke the ice, and the huge round of applause that followed seemed to belatedly bond artist and audience.
Most surprising of all, Adams's hardline stance – when all were seated and the few chatterers shushed by those around them – did actually seem to make the gig better. All attention was focused on the singer as every reverberation of his guitar strings and pop of words in his mouth during "Blue Hotel" was transmitted with pin sharpness, as "Firecracker" wheeled in with a burst of harmonica, and as a couple of piano ballads were played with powerful delicacy ("save your applause until you've heard me try to play this thing," he instructed before "New York, New York" unnecessarily; the other piano song was set stand-out "Sylvia Plath").
In a show that had almost everything, there was sharp humour too. "The narrative of this gig is I may have been an unhappy bastard in my twenties," Adams admitted, while standing up "for the exercise", and obsessing a little too much over the lyrics of Kiss's "Lick It Up" with the timing of a seasoned stand-up. He seemed to be enjoying it so much, in fact, that he overran a little: playing a 150 minutes rather than the scheduled 90. For that, many of his most devoted fans would happily have never seen their phones again.
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