- 13 Sep 17
When Adams walks out on stage sporting a Gibson Flying V and launches into a tune as gloriously RAWK as ‘Do You Still Love Me’, surrounded by TV screens tuned, as William Gibson would have it, to dead channels, and, for some unknown reason, stuffed tigers - you know you’re a long way from the sensitive, alt-country troubadour glory days of Whiskeytown. But, what of it? Nostalgia can be an enemy to art. If you want those records, go and listen to them. Adams certainly doesn’t show much interest in looking back, at least not that far, although he does teasingly park two acoustic guitars near the front of the stage. They remain untouched for the duration.
As the opening number suggests, Adams is currently locked in rock mode. ‘To Be Young’, from Heartbreaker, is up next, with the knobs set to ten, followed by the equally clanging ‘Gimme Something Good’ from 2014’s eponymous effort. The oversized amps at the back of the stage hark back to similar props employed by Neil Young, and the sound of Crazy Horse is one of the touchstones tonight, along with The Replacements, and a good dose of Johnny Marr, for there are more pedals on the stage than you’d find in the Raleigh factory. The sound is a thing of beauty though, a warm, tube amp hum that lends itself to the interplay between Adams and second guitar, Tod Wisenbaker. Adams, it seems, just came to play, man. There are heckles from the audience imploring him to even say hello, his reply is that he can’t talk; he’s got too many songs to do. He’s not yet in Van Morrison/Miles Davis territory, but he’s heading there, which is a bit of a shame. I remember what I think was his first Dublin gig years back, in a small annex off Vicar Street, where at least half the show was him chatting. This included a bizarre discussion with Hot Press about Tammy Wynette, but I digress.
Keeping up with Adams’ recorded output can leave you as confused as a Prince fan after the eighties, there’s such a volume of material that it’s easy to miss things, but his latest album, Prisoner, is a good one, and we get most of it tonight – ‘Outbound Train’ and ‘Broken Anyway’ standing out. What’s particularly welcome is a section dedicated to his work with The Cardinals, 2005’s Cold Roses, one of the strongest albums with Adams’ name on it, in particular. The band stretch and pull at ‘Magnolia Mountain’ and the title track, locking in together, working the groove, until we end up in Traffic or Little Feat territory. I’m standing beside Kíla bass hero, Brian Hogan, a man who knows a thing or two about getting in the pocket and staying there. He reckons it sounds a bit like Meddle era Pink Floyd, “You know, good Floyd”. “Bollocks”, I reply, “there’s no such thing”.
The biggest crowd pleasers are the selections from those first two solo records. A beautiful ‘When The Stars Go Blue’ sees the audience bathed in a mirror ball’s blue light, U2 used to employ a similar trick for ‘If You Wear That Velvet Dress’. Adams isn’t completely giving in though; the song now has a guitar solo that never troubled the original. The other big number from Gold, ‘New York, New York’, is pure Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, all Hammond and harmonica, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
To be fair to support act Karen Elson, I only caught the second half of her last song, but it did sound like the howl of someone a ruby slipper wearing Dorothy had just thrown water over. She’s back on stage to duet with Adams on ‘Come Pick Me Up’ and the cod Stonesisms of ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’, bringing the show to a close with the help of a smoke machine, which seems to be set to “Victorian London”. So thick is the fog that the band becomes hard to see, and the fire alarm is bothered. Added to the stage lights, the effect is that of a cut price Mötley Crüe.
Despite the crowd’s pleading, there is to be no encore, but with twenty-five songs, Adams could hardly be accused of short changing us. A bit more engagement with the audience might be in order, but it’s a small potatoes. Overall, it’s a pretty great show, a tight but loose band playing some marvellous tunes.