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Adams cannot sustain the pace. He asks too much of his songs, hoping against hope that they will be strong enough to succeed in spite of his paltry efforts
Nadine O Regan, 05 Dec 2002
Whatever about his skills as a performer, Ryan Adams has great potential as a critic. Why?
Because tonight even he thinks this gig sucks. The North Carolina man who has won the hearts of many with his two glorious solo albums, is spending most of the evening apologising for his patchy show and wishing he could depart the stage. He looks world-weary and worn. His shock of black hair is worn permanently across his face; light spills onto his guitar, but he himself remains in semi-darkness. Most of the time, he seems completely unable to put the requisite effort into his songs. Comic interludes dominate – at one point, even the heckler gets his own round of applause.
The songs themselves are hampered by poor arrangements. There is no proper backing band present tonight; instead Adams has drafted in some friends to occasionally fill out the sound with strings, guitar and backing vocals. Frequently, you wish that he hadn’t. Although all on stage are gifted musicians, together they seem under-rehearsed and ill-prepared, between them managing to elide the power of beautiful songs such as ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’.
Thankfully, there are some wonderful moments. The piano-led ‘Sweet Lil Gal’ is subdued, melancholic and gorgeous. Likewise, ‘Firecracker’ and ‘Damn, Sam’ are unexpectedly delicately rendered. On the lovely ‘Sylvia Plath’, Adams truly comes to life, singing and playing with zest and fire. As the next few songs pass in the sweetest, most affecting of fashions, it seems almost too good to be true.
Sure enough, so it proves. Adams cannot sustain the pace. He asks too much of his songs, hoping against hope that they will be strong enough to succeed in spite of his paltry efforts. Most are great tracks admittedly, but how many alt-country tunes can stand being played on a solitary electric guitar, with no other backing whatsoever? At times like these, Adams comes on like an instrument-strapped teenager, bashing out chords in his bedroom. Disappointing.