Review: Ryan Adams at Temple Buell, 2/4/12

Categories: Last Night

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Noah Van Sciver
Ryan Adams last night at the Buell: Who needs pictures when you've got Noah Van Sciver?


RYAN ADAMS @ TEMPLE BUELL THEATRE | 2/4/12

It's probably safe to assume that the inquiring mind -- the one who just asked Ryan Adams if the red, white and blue guitars he's been playing all night bear any reference to Buck Owens (they do) -- will not be one of the four people in the crowd who get the Lemmy joke Adams later inserts into an anecdote about projectile vomiting in London. If the witticism is lost on the dude, though, you can hardly blame him. More than likely, he falls on the y'allternative side of the Adams continuum. Just the same, even Iann Robinson would need a syllabus to keep up with the singer's myriad metal allusions.

Let's see: Not counting the Kiss (natch) exit music, the genius black-metal-evoking piano interlude centered on the antics of one Mr. Cat and his brother Vincent that Adams gloriously ad-libs before "Avenues," the Burzum shirt that Adams may or may not be wearing (in the pitch darkness of the Buell, it's hard to say for certain), the Iron Maiden display that appears to be emblazoned on the back of his leather jacket (again, pretty dark in here), Adams will offer up nearly half a dozen asides involving Slaughter, Black Sabbath, Britny Fox and Danzig by the end of his 24-song set, the penultimate tune of which will be a highly estimable cover of "Nutshell," by Alice in Chains.

Before he makes it to that part of the evening, however, he will keep the crowd notably engaged and riveted for the entire set with a seemingly never-ending stream of quips. The sultan of sarcasm, Adams displays a keen sense of humor and a razor-sharp repartee as he trades barbs with the more vocal members of the audience over the course of the evening. For whatever reason, some folks just can't seem to help themselves, and they blurt out random declarations and requests. Adams handles it all with admirable aplomb, indulging some of the more exasperating commenters ("It's Victoria's birthday," bellows one gentleman. "Happy birthday, Victoria," Adams quietly mutters) while responding with a simple "No" to the shouted requests, or playfully putting others on blast.

In one particularly memorable moment, when one gentleman perplexingly yells "Play the good one!" and another says "I like your hair," Adams launches into a humorous, semi-esoteric sci-fi diatribe involving ectoplasm and the movie Dune, pointing out how their collective ineptitude as hecklers has earned them placement outside the spectrum. Even if you don't get the reference (we don't), you still can't help but laugh. The best exchange of the evening comes earlier in the set, when one fella exclaims, "Thanks for coming," to which Adams responds, "Thank you! I fucking love this place! You have a gas station here that sells weed." (Ah, yes, this is the Mile High City, Mr. Adams. Glad the two of you have had a chance to become acquainted.)

Seriously, his banter and observations throughout the set is worth half the price of admission in itself. "This next song is about feelings," he deadpans at the end of "Ashes & Fire," adding, "It's about super feelings." Those remarks are later followed by a self-deprecating acknowledgement that his songs are like Hallmark cards. "Are you all ready to get sad," he intones in his best cock-rock falsetto, admitting that he doesn't really know what the appropriate banter is when the crowd responds favorably to his heartrending music.

With such bountiful charisma, Adams would be forgiven if he were merely a marginal performer. He's not, of course -- not even close. There's a reason he can pack places the size of the Buell on his own with just a guitar and keep everybody engaged for two hours: If you haven't seen him live, Adams is every bit as compelling on stage as he is on record. From beginning to end, the set -- which pulls songs from all parts of his catalogue -- is profoundly enjoyable thanks to Adams's masterful sense of dynamics and his mellifluous vocals, which are in absolute top form on this evening. Hell, even when he's goofing, Adams is still better than approximately 99.5 percent of the other songwriters clogging the airwaves.

"Can you imagine if they had Prozac when I was growing up?" he wonders aloud early in the set before launching into a mesmerizing pop-inflected improv with a melody line that's so tight you'd swear its rehearsed: "I just climbed a tree today in my yellow pants...What kind of cake am I going to eat today...in my fucking yellow pants!" If that isn't enough, here he also manages to squeeze in a quip about meeting the members of Britny Fox at a laundromat. And there are plenty of off-the-cuff moments like this during the show, including his feigned mea culpa expressing the instant remorse he feels for giving the lame hecklers a ration of shit.

It's perfectly fitting that Adams chose the Buell to perform his one-man show, as he provides some magnificent theater. Like the best shows the venue has played host to over the years, this one has us laughing, crying and marveling in equal measure, and by the end of it, when everyone stands to show their appreciation, like Adams's music, it's genuine and heartfelt. While much has been made on the blogosphere about the supposedly draconian tactics being employed to protect the integrity of the performance, turns out it's really much ado about nothing.

Given the intimate nature of this performance -- it's so quiet at times, you can hear the chair creaking when Adams leans forward or adjusts himself -- you can easily see how it would've been marred with peripheral distractions like folks incessantly taking pictures with their cell phones. While some are brave enough to take flash photos (?), despite the posted admonitions not to, we don't witness any of the ushers scolding anybody or confiscating cameras, and even those who have to answer nature's call have thus far been quite discreet about it -- and the show is all the more enjoyable as a result. At the end of the show, as everybody files out to the fist-pumping refrains of Kiss's "Lick it Up," you'd be hard-pressed to find a single soul who feels that he didn't get his money's worth tonight -- and then some.

Click through for a setlist, critic's notebook and a bit about Butch Walker's excellent opening set.

Location Info

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Temple Buell Theatre

14th and Curtis streets, Denver, CO

Category: Music


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18 comments
Ragu
Ragu

Actually, I was the inquiring mind that asked him about the Buck Owens guitars, and I did get the Lemmy joke (although it wasn't really a joke, more of a testament to Lemmy's iron constitution.) I think Ryan Adams and Motorhead have a lot more crossover than Dave Herrara gives due.

Millenniumhart
Millenniumhart

On Dude commenting on Ryan Adams hair.see clip youtube: Ryan Adams Denver 2012 Have fun 

Frank A Munafo
Frank A Munafo

Great show. Great review. The no booze thing was a bummer, but I found the rest of the "rules" enhanced the performance. I know a lot of times I'm guilty of texting friends the set and what not, but last night I was 110% fixated on the show. Also, if any of you get a chance to see a full on Butch Walker show, do so. It will change your life.

Karl Kukta
Karl Kukta

excellent review of a fantastic show - props mr Herrera.  This was my second time seeing DRA (the first time was w/ the Cardinals at Red Rocks) and Ryan's performance blew my expectations out of the proverbial water.  Now I'm compulsively going back through his whole catalog, with a huge smile on my face. 

Not once during the show did I wish he had a band with him.   The man's voice and melodies need no accompaniment.  And what a perfect venue for the show.  I wish Fleet Foxes had played at the Temple Buell - it would have much more suitable for their music than the cavernous chatty Fillmore.

LCohenLvr
LCohenLvr

An amazing set last night. Ryan Adams sounds incredible and you've done a great job in capturing his witty remarks and the overall feel of the concert. My favorite is when he asked the audience to imagine what the members of Black Sabbath were texting each other at that very moment...maybe they just send pictures of lightning bolts to each other...I really don't get the random outbursts - or the wild clapping after a song has begun, sometimes long after it has begun. The guy behind me kept calling out the song names after he'd recognize them and follow up with a "Woo!" reminiscent of the Nature Boy Rick Flair.The show was great though and I'll definitely be seeing more at Temple Buell Theatre in the future.

Wait..what?
Wait..what?

Some people in Denver need to pull their heads out of their ass and improve their theater etiquette.

Fadeswithspace
Fadeswithspace

I really like your review, and I totally agree with your assessment. A few typos though. Eats, shoots and leaves.

LMcJ
LMcJ

The Ryan Adams show was so fantastic.  I have been a Ryan Adams fan for a long time and the last time I saw him in Telluride with the Cardinals I was not impressed. (too loud for me) This time I got exactly what I wanted.  Ryan by himself, singing beautifully written songs with that amazing voice in a really nice venue.  The sound was so good. Ryan is so talented and so funny... I hope he comes back to Colorado very soon! 

AnsweringBell
AnsweringBell

(# 7 is actually "invisible riverside" and # 15 is called "two")

The show was great fun. It was a nice combination of Ryan Adams the serious songwriter and Ryan Adams the quirky comedian. His improv songs are funny and clever, the hecklers are ridiculous but a reality at nearly every DRA show. He handled it well. The set list was similar to the September show at Su Teatro but different enough to be satisfying to a serious fan like me. His vocals were top notch. He has some pipes!

CmO
CmO

Show was good. 16 days was a nice surprise. Ryan made sure to give some hecklers all they could handle. Dude can lay down the lyrics.

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

Fair enough, Ragu. I stand corrected. Thanks for weighing in.

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

Just added. Thanks for the tip and for reading, Millenniumhart.

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

Thanks, Karl. Fully concur on the band comment and the choice of the Buell. Ideal setting. Thanks for reading and for weighing in!

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

Ah, man, totally forgot about the Black Sabbath bit. That was freaking hilarious!

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

I honestly think it's truly hard for some people to contain their exuberance. For what it's worth, at least they saved their commentary for the space in between songs. My favorite moment was when a dude in the front shouted "loud noises" during the free-for-all towards the end. What I was thinking at precisely that instant: "I don't know what we're yelling about." Brick Tamland, FTW!

Ragu
Ragu

 No problem. I was actually curious to know if Buck had actually owned one of those guitars before (not out of the realm of possibility), and I figured he might actually entertain the question. But he clearly didn't hear the question and I didn't want to pester him about it. Later, some dude behind me told me he refers to the guitar(s) as "Buck", so I guess that answered my question some what.

Great show b/t/w. Really great to hear 16 days.

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