Ryan Adams | 07.21 & 07.24 | Bay Area

Listen to the 07.21 show while you read...

Words by: Dennis Cook :: Images by Jay Blakesberg

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 07.21 :: Catalyst Club :: Santa Cruz, CA
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 07.24 :: Berkeley Community Theatre :: CA

Be prepared for the Red Cave.

Ryan Adams :: 07.24
Thus warned Ryan Adams' website before his recent visit to the greater San Francisco area. Based on Adams' reputation, one imagined William Hurt's Altered States freak-outs or something equally sulphuric was in store. But, that's how wrongheaded a rep can be. The actual explanation of the mysterious phrase was far simpler – "Red Cave" shows are electric and "Blue Cave" shows, which have dominated the 2007 tour, are acoustic. As clouded in rumor and fable as Adams is there's a tendency to read more into things than might actually be there. At the bottom, Adams and his devastatingly talented band, The Cardinals, are a showcase for good songwriting bolstered by great singing and playing delivered with deeply satisfying showmanship. If these bedrock pleasures are what drives you into clubs and theatres then you couldn't have asked for better than what this American Music sextet offered up in Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

The setlists drew heavily from Adams' ridiculously listenable new slab, Easy Tiger, 2005's Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. Taken together, it's arguably the best work he's ever done, and that in no small part stems from the input of the Cardinals. One finally senses Adams' true identity as a songwriter emerging rather than the chameleon-like emulation of his earlier work, which fine as it was still carried a lot of fingerprints. Today, back by skilled, empathetic collaborators, his music sparkles and dances. In virtually every instance, the live versions at these shows bettered the studio version, and often by a good margin. From the way "Easy Plateau" actually lifts one to higher ground to the added swing on "Magnolia Mountain" onto the defragmentation pocket added to "Peaceful Valley" to the loose limbed shuffle "Goodnight Rose" and "When The Stars Go Blue" have picked up, these songs reveal new life and fresh possibilities in the hands of this lineup. And their leader, a notorious concert curmudgeon, is obviously having a goddamn blast playing with them.

Neal Casal :: 07.24
Neal Casal (guitar), Chris Feinstein (bass), Jon Graboff (pedal steel), Brad Pemberton (drums) and Jamie Candiloro (keys) are no generic backing band. Each contributed a great deal of personality and style to these songs, reinvigorating older chestnuts like "Wild Flowers" and revealing the real jammy possibilities of more recent tunes like "Cold Roses" and especially "I See Monsters," which has grown into a snarling showstopper that puts a little Freon in your veins. On one side of the stage stands Adams, singing better than ever, with Candiloro behind him. On the other side, what I'll call the Passionate Boys Choir. The combination of voices dovetailed into some of the most stunning harmonies and inspired overlap I've heard, especially live, in many years. The intersection of Casal and Adams' singing was especially stirring, a pairing of the order of Marc Olson and Gary Louris in The Jayhawks or Linda Ronstadt and John David Souther. It's a treat to hear Casal, a longtime singer-songwriter with his own following (see JamBase's 2003 interview for more background on this talented cat), shine so brightly here. His humility – and the same could probably be said of all the Cardinals – and attentive respect for Adams' material and the man himself emboldened the music with a collective flavor that's never been present before. In short, these aren't just "some guys" backing up a pop star. This is a true blue rock & roll band hitting their stride in a big way.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 07.24
While San Francisco got a "Blue Cave" show on Monday at the Herbst Theater, these electric performances revealed the real potential of this group. Having heard recordings of acoustic shows, it's true the harmonies are especially chill-inducing and the arrangements graceful but the road less traveled (Casal told me after the Santa Cruz show that, if memory served, it was the first full electric show since January) let us glimpse how they improvise and interact in a more organic way. The Electric Cardinals have muscle and filigree, determination and abandon. It was hard not to be swept up in their exploration, and really why would you resist?

There were those few refusers who called out for Whiskeytown antiques or well-worn bits from Gold, inserting themselves into the performance despite their name not being on the ticket. To his great credit, Adams deflected them with humor, only letting the yammering loudmouths get to him a few times, and then only in momentary, fully human admission of his understandable frustration. One persistent lunchbox in Berkeley was told, "Shush. I'm at work right now. I'll get in trouble. We'll talk later." I couldn't escape the feeling that the "Ryan Adams" we're shown in between songs is as much a character as it is a true face. Each turn seemed to obfuscate as much as it revealed. Adams is funny and quick and free-associative, and the slow, rude and just plain dumb folks in the crowd often seemed a little baffled at his rambles (For a lighthearted gloss on Adams' show patter see McSweeney's Short Imagined Monologue). Given the solidity of his music and the thoughtful mind behind his lyrics, it's reasonable to think this "showman" is a necessary tool for an artist that is determined to tour regularly. He plays the oddball narrator in order that they might play at all in the face of his cult of personality celebrity.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 07.24
While the Berkeley gig kicked off with a "Close Up The Honky Tonks" mood, that side of Adams' catalog didn't surface until the second set in Santa Cruz, where the show began on a significantly darker foot. Where Berkeley got:

The engine turns on a dime
But I ain't goin' nowhere, tonight
I ain't been goin' nowhere for quite awhile
Can't tell the truth in a house of lies
Can't explain what I don't know
One shot, one beer and a kiss before I go

Santa Cruz embarked with:

Imagine yourself on a mountain
Mountain discovered with flowers
Flowers discolored with horses
Horses distracted by stones
Stone distrusted with me
Then you might know what I mean
'Cause I want to kick love right in its gut
Beat it and leave for dead
Wash my hands in the river
Lie down and die in your bed

Candiloro & Adams :: 07.24
The latter track, "What Sin Replaces Love," just got meaner and more kaleidoscopic as it went until incongruously tumbling into the damaged sweetness of "Please Don't Let Me Go." The band proved equally adept at sustaining a mood, too, notably the hold-your-breath beauty of the second set in Berkeley. Like a band Adams has been associated with in recent years, The Grateful Dead, these shows contained a multitude of moods from delight to despair offered up with echoes of country, blues, psychedelia, folk and classic rock. It's a hell of a palette if the hands spreading the colors know what they're doing. These guys absolutely did at both "Red Cave" shows, which, when all's said and done, were simply grand nights out where the music made this sad, old world a smidgen brighter.


Ryan Adams and the Cardinals :: 07.21.07
Set 1: What Sin Replaces Love, Please Don't Let Me Go, Dear Chicago, Goodnight Rose, Cold Roses, Mockingbird, Beautiful Sorta, Bartering Lines, Magnolia Mountain
Set 2: Pearls On A String, Peaceful Valley, Trouble On Wheels, Arkham Asylum, I See Monsters, Games, A Kiss Before I Go, Oh My God, Whatever, Etc., Dear John, The End, Blue Hotel, Wild Flowers, Let It Ride, Easy Plateau, I Taught Myself How To Grow Old.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals :: 07.24.07
Set 1: A Kiss Before I Go, Please Do Not Let Me Go, Goodnight Rose, Peaceful Valley, Two, Easy Plateau, Beautiful Sorta, Mockingbird, Happy Birthday Summer Rae Brown, When the Stars Go Blue, I Taught Myself How to Grow Old, Everybody Knows, Let It Ride
Set 2: Blue Hotel, Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part, Dear Chicago, Wild Flowers, What Sin Replaces Love, Cold Roses, Shakedown on 9th Street, I See Monsters

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[Published on: 7/29/07]

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Marcsmall Mon 7/30/2007 04:25PM
Show -6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
snappy Mon 7/30/2007 04:44PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


marcsmall1, have you actually heard this band live? It's awful easy to dismiss things out of hand. The music spoke for itself. I went in ready to be underwhelmed and was thoroughly blown away in a manner that echoed my first Dead shows at the Greek in 1984. That's a reaction not some predisposition towards this band.

whodoyoudo Mon 7/30/2007 05:52PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


love that cold roses cd
good lyrics vocals and music are hard to come by and this is it
hopefully i can catch them at the Uof I in urbana
just saw him booked

matthau starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/30/2007 07:49PM
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Umm spare you what marcsmall1 dude? Sorry you don't appreciate the real deal. Ryan is the real deal and his band kicks @ss. Great review..it's good to see Ryan and company written about on this site, because he writes roots music that I feel is iconic and will be remembered in future years. This cannot be said about many young artists. Easy Tiger is an instant classic, and I look forward to even better material in the future.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 04:21AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

ryan may be a modern day bob dylan for many people.
glad u like him. I do not mind to hear or play the songs on the radio, but I do not like him enough to buy a cd or go to a show. that is just me, notice I am not saying a bunch of negative crud, I will SPARE you that much :)
people are sensitive about the bands they love, so I try to respect that.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 04:24AM
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please leave Jerry out of this. :)

snappy Tue 7/31/2007 05:34AM
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I wasn't a fan until his last four albums, and even there I think each could use an editor. There's a number of singer-songwriters on his level who don't get nearly the press or attention (not the least of which is Cardinals' guitarist Neal Casal). But, this band live is something else. Here's a link to a live stream of the Santa Cruz show discussed here:


aquariumdrunk starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 06:17AM
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Friday @ Red Rocks!

Thanks for getting me pumped, Dennis.

Tim9 starstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 08:07AM
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Please forgive marcsmall. He is a far more talented musician, singer, songwriter, and bandleader than this Ryan Adamson guy and would be hard pressed to waste his praise as such. Marc - please tell me where I can buy all of your albums so I can stop wasting my time listening to this Bryan Adams or whatever his name is. Thanks.

breckenridgejam Tue 7/31/2007 09:00AM
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I don't think the Grateful Dead and Ryan Adams' name should be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone the same article... Anyone remember when Ryan Adams was playing with Phil and Phriends and got too drunk, I do, he made a mockery of what the Grateful Dead stands for!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 09:25AM
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I concur mr breckenridgejam.

snappy Tue 7/31/2007 09:47AM
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Again, I encourage folks basing their opinion of Adams and his music on past experiences to check out where he is today. None of the points or comparisons were made lightly. One hopes that each of evolves a bit as the days roll on. I genuinely got the sense that Adams is a changed man in a lot of ways. Hate to think we'd all be judged only on what we've done in the past, especially if we made an effort to change for the better. I find compassion is in short supply, not just around these comment fields but in the world at large...

INITFORTHEMUSIC starstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 10:00AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


INITFORTHEMUSIC Tue 7/31/2007 10:06AM
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Marcsmall Tue 7/31/2007 11:32AM
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Yes, very sensitive

enjoimusic4202 Tue 7/31/2007 12:01PM
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No that was not a mockery of the Dead, Ryan Adams playing with Phil and being retarded fucked up is a mockery, showing he didn't have enough respect or he would have kept his shit together & not been an idiot, but agree that the two names should never even be in the same sentence

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/31/2007 12:05PM
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Jerry would love Ryan Adams.

Kayceman Tue 7/31/2007 12:06PM
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Wait a second, you mean a rock musician got fucked up before taking the stage and it was detrimental to the performance? I don't believe it... Furthermore, i think when Phil Lesh decided to draft Ryan Adams for some shows that pretty much makes it impossible to not have the Dead and Adams linked. Not to mention the Cardinals' jam structure is so Dead-laced it's impossible to deny. Just listen to the stream from this article and tell me that the jams don't resemble the Dead.

INITFORTHEMUSIC Tue 7/31/2007 01:07PM
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ramblintrav Tue 7/31/2007 01:43PM
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Breckenridgejam- "he made a mockery of what the grateful dead stands for." The grateful dead were one of the biggest partying bands ever. They lost a couple of members to drugs and alcohol. Come on man, one of the reasons Jerry died was because of years of drug abuse. There were times that Jerry was so fucked up on stage that he could barely play. I don't seem to get your point. Anyways I don't think that Ryan Adams is as good as the Dead (especially Jerry), but he's still a great musician and doesn't deserve to be bashed just because someone writes an article about him. Also, every time I read these boards there seems to be negative blogs by marcsmall1 and milesgone. Chill out man, if your going to read an article knowing that you won't like it, don't read it or don't make a stupid comment. Please!

hnkscrpio Tue 7/31/2007 01:48PM
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I don't get why it's ok for Jerry to be too fucked up to play with the dead is not disrespectful, but Ryan Adams doing it with Phil is. Jerry was a member of that band, he played with those guys for ages, and they were like a family. Making the rest of the guys look bad because he is too fucked up, is just as bad as what Ryan Adams did. Only he did it a lot more to the Dead than Adams did to Phil. I really don't even like the idea of basing an overall musical opinion of someone on just one unfortunate incident. Has anybody else noticed that all that marcsmall guy does is bash bands on this forum. Pretty Lame.

enjoimusic4202 Tue 7/31/2007 02:32PM
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initforthemusic - ah, you make a good point and Jerry was known to do such on many occasions, I was merly coming from the standpoint that Ryan Adams was a guest of Phil's and that if he was invited to play w/ him he should not of gotten so faded he couldnt keep it together, him playing w/ Phil is certainly a little different than Jerry playing w/ the Dead, but nonetheless I see your view

Tim9 Tue 7/31/2007 08:38PM
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It's great to see some people come to loose, informed agreement on something here. Makes this thing more agreeable to read - certainly less of headache. For background, I come from where Ryan's from and this guy has been through a whole lot of s*it, lots self induced, some not. His decision to break up Whiskeytown and make the jump is still a sore point for some folks in central NC. It's great to hear him come out on the other side with some music I really like. I thought he was going to be a casualty based on the accounts of our local (and national) media. Apparently he's sober and it shows in his recent output. I hope he keeps it up. I also need to get copies of some marcsmall albums. Are they too exclusive, or can anyone shoot me one? I hear he does a mean trancetastic version of "Takin' Care of Business".

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/1/2007 04:46AM
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ramblingtrav. My honest opinion is all I am sharing. not every comment I make on message boards is negative.

breckenridgejam starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/1/2007 08:03AM
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I feel very fortunate that I got to see the Grateful Dead before Jerry passed away and I agree that there were many moments when Garcia was messed up and sloppy... That being said, the Grateful Dead toured for over 25 years and worked extremely hard to accomplish great musical achievements. So it disapoints me when an up-incoming musician, like Ryan Adams, gets the chance of a lifetime to play music with seasoned veterans then shows no composure and complete lack of respect to one of my favorite bands! I'll congratulate him on doing an awesome job of persuading me never to see him play live again. I guess it is nice to see that at least 5 people will pay to have Ryan Adams piss in their ears.

enjoimusic4202 Wed 8/1/2007 08:58AM
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breckenridge - I really couldnt have said that better, in fact that is what I was trying to convey, but totally agreed!

breckenridgejam Wed 8/1/2007 12:26PM
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Putting all the bickering aside, Happy B-Day Jerry!

koach starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/6/2007 12:28PM
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breckenridge, ryan adams has nine solo albums, a couple whiskytown albums... he is no up and coming musician... he is up... yeah he didnt fit too well with phil, but phil loves the man, and still covers his songs often, ryan is the best american singer/songwriter to come around in years, many people say since neil young......

breckenridgejam Mon 8/6/2007 01:41PM
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Cool koach, you listen to Ryan Adams and I'll listen to Neil Young. I had never heard of Ryan Adams before he toured with Phil and Friends and he didn't leave me with any good first impressions, which are very important in the music industry. Also, I heard Ryan burned all his bridges with Phil and that Phil will never tour with his sorry ass ever again :)

Hafty starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/6/2007 11:42PM
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fantastic show (i saw it). even better review. as usual, kick ass job Dennis

assafjaffe starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/11/2007 07:29PM
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Great review Denis, I agree with Adam and am glad I got to spend set break with Mr. Haft and Mr. Cook in Berkeley, thanks for the kind treatment and cool story about Wilco at Bonnaroo Denis. I am A Grateful Dead fanatic and saw about a hundred shows. I think too many folks are just missing the real point of this review and Ryan’s work.

He is a genius of the highest order and I consider him a songwriter who belongs in a very select club with Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Robert Hunter, Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young and maybe Jeff Tweedy.

I saw the Berkeley show but was more stoked the night before at the acoustic show in S.F.

His past 4 disks have been epic. He is one of the best singers I have ever heard. The Cardinals are about as tight as any band I ever heard.

I saw Ryan before he got sober at The Palace of Fine Arts. I was pissed off. He was all fucked up and I felt ripped off. I have been more than compensated by seeing the two shows recently. These shows were evenings I will remember all my life. I really think it's important that when a drug addict or alcoholic makes a significant change in their life they should be given due credit and hopefully folks can forgive their past mistakes. If you haven't really heard Ryan yet, pick up Easy Tiger or Cold Roses. These are albums that can stand up with old school gems like Harvest and American Beauty. What’s with all the Deadheads saying shit like Ryan shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as Jerry. They are my two favorite singers ever. Thanks Dennis for all you good hard work. Thanks for all the comments from people lending positivity to the story. Too many critics and haters. I have played Ryan for about twenty people and nearly all of them have fallen in love and most have asked me to borrow CD's and come to shows with me. I find that most people who can appreciate good music instantly fall in love with this man who can sing like Dave Crosby or Gram Parsons, write tunes like Townes or Bob Dylan end play guitar as well as most of the players in top jam bands. The only sense I can make of it is that people have only heard him with Phil Lesh and are unwilling to give him a second chance. Don't do me or Ryan any favors, but if you value truth and beauty in music do yourself a favor and give this young man in recovery from a debilitating addiction a second chance. I live for music and Ryan to me is like a beautiful bright star in the evening sky. I hope he lives long, puts out many more albums and comes to the Bay Area a shit load of times. I hope to see him many more times live, (seen him 4x already) and bet your ass I'll buy every album he puts out from now on. Long live Rock

jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/26/2007 08:05AM
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assafjaffe - You said it perfectly. Thank you.

cliftonhanger420 Fri 9/7/2007 06:40PM
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are you actually old enough to have ever even see Jerry live, because you said that the grateful dead were together over 25 years. the GD existed exactly 30 years and i think if you were there you would know that. also, if you don't like ryan adams, then why would you even read the article, or did you just come here to bitch? i never heard of ryan until phil. i didn't really care for him singing grateful dead covers with phil, but when i actually listened to his solo albums and some live shows off of archive, he is very talented. actually, from the mtv generation bands out there today, if i was going to compare ryan adams and the cardinals instrumentally to any band out there it would be the grateful dead. he's got some tunes that go on for 10 minutes and have some jerry sounding inspirations in there, especially if he's covering bird song or what not, let it ride and magnolia mountain are a couple of phil's favorites. when i listen to ryan, i hear a young neil young at times, willie nelson at times, and his lead guitarist sounds like he's a fan of the jerry at times too. not saying he's as close to as good as jerry, but influenced and talented. i would say that ryan adams is way better then most crap out their today, including some new jam bands like the disco suckasses. i don't think any buscuits fans have the right to bash any bands, cause they really suck. i'm not going to judge ryans addictions, sid barret used to black out on stage from too much acid and bob dylan's played drunk in recent years. some bands even promote drugs and alcohol.

Jack Straw Berry starstarstarstar Thu 2/28/2008 06:45PM
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Jack Straw Berry

yeah...jerry sure never got too drunk to play! oops, he was pretty strung out on smack and forgot the words and blew solos 50% of the time...wait...maybe I was wrong.

Listen to that Ryan sc show on archive...that is the best dead cover band I've heard in a long time...new material, peddle steel, great harmonies, synchopated dual guitar lines, nice shuffle in the rhythm section...actually, I'd compare Ryan to Neil and the Allmans too...it's nice to hear an honest to god rock band play original music in the "traditional" form...

by the way...even though I'm old deadhead...the reunion retirement iterations of the band are getting old...they do bring back the tingles though...just don't let jackie greene sing jerry's songs! where's billy?