Monday, February 20, 2012

Ryan Adams at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (2/17/12)


With a devout love for such metal bands varying from Ratt to Celtic Frost, Ryan Adams and I would have got along well back in high school. We could discussed Morbid Tales and argued whether Warren DeMartini or George Lynch was the better guitarist over a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Adams's latest album Ashes and Fire on his label PAXAM Records sounds nothing like his favorite metal bands but sounds exactly like Ryan Adams.

 I was fortunate to catch Ryan Adams at his tour opener at the Balboa Theater in San Diego and his amazing intimate KCRW session, so I basically knew what to expect in terms of song selection. Understanding that the auditory experience of attending a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the best in the city, I had this concert circled on my calendar for quite awhile.

Strolling onstage with his black leather jacket and grabbing one of his Harmony Buck Owens acoustic guitars, Adams lightly strummed the opening chords of "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and immediately grasped the entire audience within seconds in the palm of his hand. The acoustics of the venue worked well to Adams's advantage as they hung to every spoken word and guitar note. Even when Adams was tuning his guitar, there was a hushed silence amongst the crowd.

While the songs are stellar, the stories Adams infuses before the song makes them that much more enjoyable as his shows morph into almost a storyteller atmosphere as he talked about making a drinking game out of one of his songs "Dirty Rain" by taking a drink every time he sings the word "rain". One of my favorite songs "My Winding Wheel" was phenomenal in its open tuning in which before he played it Adams plucked out a harmonic and mentioned that it was more like George Lynch.

"Invisible Riverside" conjured images of driving down Sunset Blvd just like Adams jokingly told the audience before diving into the song. The hits just kept coming as he worked through "Firecracker", "English Girls Approximately", and dedicated "Chains of Love" to his "boo". It was delightful to hear Adams masterfully tickle the ivories for "New York, New York" and his hilarious improv/ode to his cat "Mr. Cat". I think it is fair to conclude that Adams wins the award for the most cursing on the Walt Disney Concert stage.

Adams strategically stacked his setlist and his cover of "Wonderwall" perfectly blended in with his other material as he managed to add some extra shades of wistfulness to the song. I was hoping for a heavy metal cover and my wishes were granted when he took on "Holy Diver"' by Dio pausing in the middle of the song to mention that "this is the part when Warren Demartini would walk on the stage" during the solo portion of the song.

After leaving the stage to a standing ovation, Kiss "Lick It Up" proceeded to be the exit music for the show. Adams's wife Mandy Moore later would tweet that "Holy Diver" was playing on the radio when they were driving home. The stars were definitely aligned on this particular night and I'm sure Ronnie James Dio would throw up his trademark devil horns in salute.

Setlist for Ryan Adams (2/17/12)
"Oh My Sweet Carolina"
"Ashes & Fire"
"If I'm A Stranger"
"Dirty Rain"
"My Winding Wheel"
"Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)"
"Invisible Riverside"
"Everybody Knows"
"Let It Ride"
"Please Do Not Let Me Go"
"English Girls Approximately"
"Chains Of Love"
"Lucky Now"
"Mr. Cat"
"New York, New York"
"Happy Song"
"16 Days"
"Come Pick Me Up"
"Holy Diver" 

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