There are three separate and distinct Ryan Adams stage personas: the folk guitarist of his early solo years, the front-man for a band that sounds suspiciously like the Grateful Dead, and bad alternative country heartthrob. At Foellinger Auditorium last Thursday, we got a taste of the last two, with a side bonus of the pissy wannabe-rock star Ryan Adams that started showing up a few weeks back. It’s a shame, though, because a solo acoustic show in the very intimate Foellinger could’ve been great.
The main thing that Adams did wrong was to kill any semblance of momentum by stopping and talking between songs for three to five minutes. It’s always good to see a band actively engaging in conversation with the audience, which Ryan Adams most certainly did, but the banter went on for almost as long as the music, and it followed the same format throughout: Ryan complains that he quit smoking four days ago, he compares how the show has been going to the experiences of another band (usually Maroon 5), he has technical difficulty, he blames it on another member of the band, he complains again that he has recently quit smoking, then he goes into the next song. Adams’s sense of humor came out many, many times throughout the show, which made for a good deal of entertainment, but at a certain point, I started to think, “Goddammit, just play the song!”
Musically, the show sounded pretty damn good. There was a problem with Ryan’s guitar at the end of the show, but it only prevented him from appearing in control up there. The songs, however, really ran together, which made it clear that many of them really sound the same. He has a great singing voice, and since he quit smoking, it will probably even improve. The best way for him to be taken more seriously by the music community is to stop dicking around with less-than-steller material, stop recording every goddamn bit of gibberish that pops into his head, take some time to write some thoughtful lyrics, and release an album that’s actually challenging.