It was on a wet and miserable night in Cork that Ryan Adams kicked off his fifteen-date tour of Europe, his first since 2008.
Support on the night was provided by Jesse Malin, who also supported Adams when he played that legendary Cork City Hall solo show back in 2002. The New Yorker played half a dozen tracks or so which included "You Can Make Them Like You", a cover of a song by The Hold Steady which appears on Malin's 2008 album On Your Sleeve which is entirely comprised of covers of other artists songs. Stories about his father hating his shoes, being grounded for whacking his dick on the table in front of girls in school and living with his mother and sister in a one bedroom apartment provided nearly as much entertainment as his setlist. Highlights from the actual music side of things included "The Archer" and "Almost Grown", the latter striking a particular chord with the crowd as confirmed by the ovation that followed.
Excitement sometimes gets the better of me before gigs especially if I have been looking forward to the gig in question for a particularly long time. Ryan Adams is a hero of mine so if everything was to run like clockwork on Tuesday afternoon I should have been as giddy as a shaken bottle of cola yet my excitement never actually reached boiling point. The reason for this could only be that Adams' last appearance in Cork (in The Savoy with The Cardinals) didn't exactly set the world on fire. This coupled with his last few albums not reaching the exceptionally high bar the Jacksonville songwriter set for himself so early on in his career and the fact that he has not appeared live in four years meant I was probably as anxious as I was excited.
It took just the first few notes of "Oh My Sweet Carolina", possibly the mans finest song, to ease any anxiety I had been unnecessarily experiencing. It was obvious he wanted to come out all guns blazing to dismiss any doubts or at least rustiness that may have crept in over the past few idle, at least performance-wise, years. After some fine tuning, which would become a feature of the night due to a "very unprofessional guitar", a new song appeared which shows some promise for the new album reportedly planned for later in the year.
Beautiful acoustic versions of "If I Am a Stranger" and "Let It Ride" from Cold Roses, "Firecracker" from Gold and "Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains)" from Heartbreaker made up the heart of the performance with the crowd also treated to an interesting (in the extremely positive vein of interesting as opposed to "how quaint") piano version of "New York, New York". "Sylvia Plath" also made an appearance on one of Adams' rare jaunts to the upright.
It has to be said that the man is damn funny. Becoming quite clear early on that a specific setlist had not been preplanned, he frequently peered into his songbook carefully choosing what to play next, sometimes appearing a little frustrated at the choices available to him. Frequent tuning of the guitar also ate up time but, whenever the crowd in any way approached uneasiness, the lone man on stage would simply make a witty comment and crack the crowd up.
A few new songs, "Dirty Rain" and "Ashes And Fire", raised their heads during the show accompanied by more oldies ("Dear Chicago") but it was also interesting to hear tracks from albums such as "Withering Heights" (from 2005's Jacksonville City Nights), "Carolina Rain" (from 29 released that same year) and "Two" from 2007's Easy Tiger stand shoulder to shoulder with the older "classics". There was even time for a Whiskeytown track ("Avenues"). A four-song encore which included "Desire", one of my favourite Ryan Adams songs, wrapped up the night nicely.
Heartfelt and sincere thanks to the crowd at the end of the show, a specific thank you to the staff of the Cork Opera House, followed up quickly by a thank you tweet seems to show that the artist that we all know can be so prolific may finally have his feet back on the ground. It may not have been as good as his City Hall performance way back in 2002 but it was not far off.
"Thank you to all the lovely people in Cork who came out and shared the evening with @jesse_malin and I. Was so lovely. Xx"
Full Setlist as per a user on PROC
Oh My Sweet Carolina
If I Am A Stranger
New York, New York
Crossed Out Name
Damn Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
Ashes And Fire
Let It Ride
Please Don't Let Me Go