Ryan Adams | 09.25 | Milwaukee

Words by: Dustin Safranek

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 09.25.07 :: Riverside Theater :: Milwaukee, WI

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 09.25 by Safranek
Amidst layered blue light and a starry backlit canopy, Ryan Adams sat at a red piano, located stage right at the Riverside Theater in downtown Milwaukee. He had returned alone to appease five minutes of encore cheers from a crowd of close to 2000 people. He lit a cigarette, the smoke masking his already bang-covered face further from the captivated audience.

Long before the show had begun, concerned onlookers spoke of Adam's sensitive temperament and how it correlated with the quality of his performances. Tension swelled throughout the room as fans screamed for favorites such as "Come Pick Me Up" and "To Be Young." Adams approached the microphone and as it became apparent he would speak, I thought we might witness a confirmation of his notorious temperament.

"Don't feed the bears unless you want to get bit," Adams jovially whispered.

He must have been in a fairly good mood because the tension disappeared and the performance maintained a high level of energy and professionalism for close to two hours, highlighting songs off of his new record, Easy Tiger, like "Goodnight Rose" and "I Taught Myself To Grow," as well as drawing gems from Jacksonville City Nights like "Dear John," "Peaceful Valley," "Games" and "A Kiss Before I Go." He also played fan favorites "Night Bird" off of 2005's 29 and "When the Stars Go Blue" off of 2001's Gold.

Much of the show was very rock oriented, with Adam's proving to be a much more accomplished guitar player than one would expect for someone trumpeted so highly as a songwriter. He took solos regularly, as well as leading what seemed to be improvised jam sections, harmonizing his guitar with that of Cardinal's guitarist-singer Neal Casal. The two's harmonies and guitar work mellifluously carried the show from start to finish. The rhythm section served the songs well, while occasional glimmer was provided by pedal steel player Jon Graboff.

As the clamor from the encore rally subsided, Adams puts down his cigarette. Completely alone on stage, the song he wielded revealed itself as an abstract, almost indistinguishable version of The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar." It's a beautiful and melancholy contrast to the more upbeat, soaring southern rock sounds achieved most of the evening with The Cardinals. The hammers of the piano were struck somberly as the silenced masses focused in on what they all truly came to see - the creator of all those gut wrenching songs at his most stripped down and vulnerable.

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[Published on: 10/18/07]

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jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 07:46AM
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Here's what PHIL LESH has to say about Ryan Adams:

I love playing with Ryan because he’s fearless; because he doesn’t have to do anything the same way twice; because every idea he throws out in a jam is a little gem that cries out “polish me”; because he has about nine hundred voices that he can use like a Bene Gesserit; because of his huge heart and enormous talent. I like it that we deconstruct the songs so that verses are transposed, or the bridge comes in early, or the jam leads back to a verse instead of a chorus. I like it that we have to be on our tippy-tippy toes to make the acute left turns and abrupt changes that Ryan likes to spring on us. I like to spring those kind of changes too- what do you think I’m doing when I talk into my mike and you can’t hear me? I love playing with Ryan because he takes me back to when the Grateful Dead were young, fearless, crazy and didn’t give a shit about what other people thought we should do. If what you desire is the perfect rendition, there are many excellent bands that perform Grateful Dead songs- but I have never been about perfection and never will be. I do promise that I will always do my best to follow my weird. I hope you will join me, but I do understand if your path takes you elsewhere. I will also say with no hesitation that Jerry would have loved Ryan and his fearless interpretations of his songs. It’s funny, but I feel Jerry close to me whenever I am around Ryan. — Phil Lesh (January 2006)

See you in Cleveland on the 27th!

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 09:13AM
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Yeah, I didn't think I was a big Ryan Adams fan until I downloaded this show from the archive:


It changed my mind with one listen - Ryan Adams is the shit!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 10:30AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

thats nice. cannot wait to see what he says about Jackie Greene :P

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/19/2007 01:49PM
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All hail Ryan Adams. Any deadheads out there check out his run with phil lesh especially the Red Rocks ass kicking. what a badass!

doobliebop Fri 10/19/2007 02:28PM
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It's amazing to see that he can make it through a show without walking off halfway anymore...

j-bizzle starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 09:36AM
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Its funny that most Ryan Adams reviews start off with what type of mood he was in. I guess part of the mystique of seeing him live is wondering whether or not he'll even finish the show.

Regardless, he is a kick ass song writer and deserves credit where credit is due.