Promo West Pavilion
March 16, 2002
here for a review of Gold, the
latest album from Ryan Adams
Anticipation abounded as former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams, a seldom-traveled road performer who prefers to keep his music in the studio rather than on a stage, shuffled into Columbus's brand new Promo West Pavilion. Touring in support of one of the best albums of 2001,
Gold, it was easy to be giddy about the prospects for his live show. What I didn't expect, however, was to hear the subtle acoustic songs in Adams' vast repertoire get kicked up several notches to an arena rock tempo, served through full band accompaniment and electric guitars.
Following an extended slow ride through an unidentifiable Doors-like cover to open the show, Adams and his band sawed right through "The Rescue Blues," a first example of his swapping acoustic for electric, moderate tempo for full speed ahead. As is often the case, the simplest of three-and-a-half-minute album tracks become 10-minute productions on stage. Most of this night's set list would be no exception, though neither Ryan Adams nor his band wasted musical space, but instead made the most of it. "To Be Young" from 2000's
Heartbreaker record was already rowdy in recorded form, but it took on a rocking life of its own in front of 2,000 screaming fans. The band was awesome. Although Adams owned the spotlight, these five (and frequently six) other accomplished musicians were out to prove that this or any stage could potentially be their own.
Just when you thought he was going to pull back his horns and tone down the vibrant mood for a bit, like during the outset of "When the Stars Go Blue," Adams would eventually work even the slower tracks back up to a frothier rock and roll moment. He's long been rumored to suffer from modest stage fright, or at least apprehension, and to combat that he chose to soak himself thoroughly in alcohol before stepping out. It wasn't so obvious until mid-way through an early guitar solo, when Adams first stumbled then fell in front of the drum kit, only to finish the solo on his back. An inspired run through "Firecracker" preceded one of the night's most memorable chapters, a drawn out Allman Brothers-like jam version of "Nobody Girl." Similar to the album version, Adams and the band were stunningly successful in moving back and forth across varied tempos and volumes, opening slow and bluesy, "Well the night makes moves, and then shatters like broken glass," before working up to a full-bore crashing crescendo! Seeing as "Nobody Girl" occupies almost 10 minutes on the album, though, it was no wonder it could fill almost 15-20 minutes in concert.
Eventually, Adams would opt for breaking up the string of Gold offerings by announcing, "Here's a cover by a new band you might not have heard of yet," and slamming into a flawless and crowd-adoring take on the Stones' "Brown Sugar." By now we were ready and willing to digest whatever he threw at us, but Adams chose to stay the course, never straying far from
Gold, and closed the regular set with "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues." After the short, obligatory exit, Adams staggered back out (without his band) to a darkened stage where he brandished only an acoustic guitar and solitary microphone. An unknown country ballad began the encore, before simple but recognizable strumming turned into Oasis's "Wonderwall," much to the crowd's delight! The entire band finally joined him and Adams tore through the "Heartbreaker" gem "Come Pick Me Up." While filing out of the pavilion, more than satisfied with the night's rock and roll value, I stopped by the mixing board and was able to attain a copy of the set list. Utterly useless, really, since the pre-written set was not even close to what actually got played. I guess the alcohol had its way, but if that's what it requires to make Ryan Adams the performer he is, then I can't see why he wouldn't indulge each and every day.