Ryan Adams & The Cards | 10.31 | NYC

Words & Images by: By JC McIlwaine

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 10.31.08 :: Apollo Theater :: New York, NY

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 10.31 :: NYC
"Welcome to the World Famous Apollo Theater", read the marquis out front, its many bulbs lighting up 125th St. in Harlem as fans made their way into the venue. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals were throwing a record release party of sorts at the legendary New York City nightspot, and from the looks of it, many odd characters were in attendance for the celebration, including a couple of Navy boys, a handful of flappers, Homer and Marge Simpson and Frida Kahlo. One guy even looked the spitting image of Adams himself. But, the real Adams was presumably backstage, awaiting his band's entrance at this red-carpet affair, the 2nd Annual Cardinals NYC Halloween party.

The red curtains parted to reveal the band coming onstage to what was, for them, an elaborate scene composed of elements of the Cardinals' iconography. Two blue neon ("cold") roses floated on the backdrop, in the center of which hung a large reproduction of the flying bird logo from the front of the newly released Cardinology album (read JamBase's review here). A huge Zildjian gong hung down behind the drum riser, suspended from the Cardinal emblem. The same symbol was also plastered on the front of the bass drum. The band, dressed in casual-formal attire, wore no costumes per se, but I guess you could say that they were dressed as Cardinals.

With little fanfare, the band rolled right into a rock-heavy set, kicking off the night with an amped-up version of "Cobwebs", the same song Adams and the band played live on Late Night With David Letterman last week (see the performance here). "Everybody Knows" was followed by a chant of "MFC!" from some in the crowd. "Motherfuckin' Cardinals?" Knowing Adams' propensity to refer to his band in similar fashion, this is a safe assumption.

For the first bunch of songs the band pulled only from material found on their last two albums. "Goodnight Rose," the leadoff track from 2007's Easy Tiger, led them into the first breather of the night, as they became enveloped in a steel-guitar-driven, Grateful Dead-like jam. The song slowed and simmered to the point of a capella as the guys sung the last chorus.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 10.31 :: NYC
The a capella mode would pop up again a few songs later in "Peaceful Valley," an utterly tortured song about finding stillness and serenity in death. Adams wailed in his best country voice about wanting to enjoy his creature comforts in the afterlife, slipping in a subtle, yet significant substitute, as he replaced the last half of the line: "Can I still smoke cigarettes and have my coffee/ Up there in heaven and a bottle of wine?" with "Up there in heaven with some piece of mind."

It has been quite some time since Adams traded the slippery bedside bottle for the snappy '60s businessman blazer, putting his bad boy persona in check and setting out on his upward spiral (insert your favorite bird metaphor cleverly linking the band's avian moniker to said ascent here). The change roiling in Adams has never been more apparent.

The performer found onstage these days is in the business of producing clean-cut and polished gems with his favorite band, trading in 2005's prolificacy (three albums in one calendar year) for biannual albums that are of more the standard-bearing flagship caliber than the random offerings of some of his early 2000s releases. This performer is succinct and to the point, although his bitterly humorous sarcasm still pops up between songs from time to time. The Cardinals of today are one part country dissolved in a stiff solution made up of at least one part rock and one part roll.

Sure, the music found on the two most recent albums still crosses genres, encompassing facets of alt-country in its soundscape. But the songs, as played live, come at the audience at about twice the tempo and three times the intensity. Maybe playing a string of dates with Oasis has reshaped the band's priorities, but any extended thoughts in that direction would be speculative garble. What is apparent, and undeniable, is that although the band still sprinkles its sets with slower numbers to switch up the pace, their M.O. these days is to come dangerously close to blowing out your eardrums. One look at what just might be the largest Fender amp ever built, stationed directly behind Adams, seems to prove this point.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: 10.31 :: NYC
The band came back on for a second set after a refreshingly short set break – not quite the three-minutes Adams had suggested, but not the near hour that some bands require. The second set was decidedly mellower, although each song showed a lot more punch than the album versions would suggest they could. "Let It Ride" and a countrified version of "Desire" were followed by a contribution by guitarist-singer Neal Casal. Adams comfortably stepped out of the spotlight during most of this song, but still managed to take the solo, getting so wrapped up in it that his guitar acted as a mirror, refracting several sharp beams of light out into the audience.

People in the crowd, emboldened by a few beers, started yelling out suggestions, and in answer the band offered up "Two," a definite crowd-pleaser even if not the one requested. "Magick," the most rollicking song on Cardinology, was two short and sweet minutes of no-holds-barred solid-beat, fuzzy bass, guitar god revelry, with the lights darting across the stage like Polar Bear Club members recently dipped and running for the hot showers. The neon roses took turns blinking on and off during "Cold Roses," and the band got the walls rattling with "Shakedown On 9th Street." Casal offered up one more number before the band settled into a trio of songs from the new album.

Introducing "Crossed Out Name," Adams joked at his own expense, "This next song is another song in the long line of songs about how I'm so fucking happy in my romantic life. I'm so happy I'm dancing for fucking joy. I'm gonna die under a stack of comic books alone." Adams almost seemed to be laughing along with the crowd, but the troubadour still intoned tragic themes, following two tales of lost love with one on the terrors of facing the demons of addiction. "Stop," the last song on Cardinology, was perhaps a fitting finale, both for its name and for the fact that we all confront multiple ghouls and goblins on Halloween.

Surprisingly, "Halloweenhead" was not on the night's setlist, proving yet again Ryan Adams' ability to defy conventional wisdom. He's still got a good many tricks up his newly buttoned sleeve. A night onstage at the Apollo is a magical event, and any performer's dream come true, as Adams noted with his closing remarks: "Thank you very much Apollo. Happy Halloween. We are the Cardinals. We love you very much. What a wonderful thing to play the Apollo. Our deepest respects to the Apollo."

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[Published on: 11/3/08]

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goldnugz starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 01:53PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


love me some ryan and the cardinals, cant wait to hear the new album.

Jeff Kash Mon 11/3/2008 02:50PM
Show -10 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
RichardHaley Mon 11/3/2008 03:48PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Say what you want about Ryan (there's plenty that's annoyed me over the years), but that song/jam that's embeded in the article is fucking awesome, like vintage early 70s Grateful Dead shit... ya, it's that good.

curtbraski starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 04:40PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


ya Ryan is the man... The Cardinals are classic check out any soundboard on Archive from the past 2 years. If you aren't converted then there is something wrong with you. My roommate has continually ridiculed Ryan Adams and when I put on a recording from the past few months he shut his trap. It is some really great high quality music.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 06:02PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


MFC! I like that.

jackiesoup starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 06:30PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Wishing I was there...Every show I've seen has been a religious experience

PunkJazz Mon 11/3/2008 06:45PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


White people are allowed at the Apollo?

leclairm21 starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 07:36PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

JC McIlwaine - Nice writing man. Very enjoyable read.

(Cardinals fucking rock.)

bluke11 Mon 11/3/2008 07:45PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

where can you find that version of goodnight rose (embedded). not on the itunes or amazon album.

Mark Price former NBA star starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 08:04PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Mark Price former NBA star

Ryan Adams is so good. I would have loved to go to their Halloween show.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Tue 11/4/2008 06:12AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

I keep hearing people say its like grateful dead.

Im not hearing it. not on the albums anyway.

breadloaf starstarstarstar Tue 11/4/2008 06:14AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Very nice review, JC, thanks. Glamour Pro, I am curious why you would not only go to the trouble to trash Ryan Adams on this board, but another one that has virtually nothing to do with him? You seem to enjoy flaunting your prejudice. Well, you got my attention, I imagine that's what you are looking for. Why the negativity? Leave it behind, man, you'll be glad you did. Go Cards.

breadloaf Tue 11/4/2008 06:27AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

milesgone, I would say Cold Roses has the most Dead-like material on it.

I think there is more of a basic influence than actual similarity; chord changes, some lyrics, small Jerry-like mixolydian passages. Jacksonville City Nights is really good and worth checking out, if you have not already.

snoman722 starstarstarstar Tue 11/4/2008 06:30AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I wish I could have made this show but by the time I got around to it the tickets were way out of my price range. I did buy the new album yesterday, however; It's definately a new direction for the Cardinals but it still rocks just as hard.

Prediction: Magick is going to be a monstrous pop hit... just sayin'

acomma Tue 11/4/2008 07:25AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
futhepharmer starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/4/2008 10:16AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


You won't hear as much of the Dead influence on the studio side as much as the live experience. Check out a live "Peaceful Valley" opener and tell me it doesn't sound exactly like late seventies Grateful Dead. Awesome, to say the least. Ryan haters are just uninformed. kinda sad actually, to overlook one of the BEST songwriters out there today!

mikemac9317 Tue 11/4/2008 11:04AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Wannabe junkie/songwriter? He was a junkie, and is a songwriter you dip shit.

granola Tue 11/4/2008 01:03PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

LAME music and band

chickenwinger starstarstarstar Tue 11/4/2008 04:03PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This show was amazing! Even without a Halloweenhead!God bless the haters! It allows me to go see one of my favorite artists in a nice mall place like the Apollo or in a coffee shop with 70 people in SoHo last tuesday!

curtbraski Tue 11/4/2008 05:26PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


milesgone... hit the soundboard recordings on archive...you won't be dissapointed

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/5/2008 04:50AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

okie dokie kurt and pharmer thanks!! I will try the live stuff out.

I only know albums....

shonuff Wed 11/5/2008 07:50AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great comment chickenwinger. Seeing Ryan and The Cardinals at the Murat last month was an amazing experience. However, people really need to quit shouting out requests...it's fucking annoying when people act so ignorant. Peace out

bruff76 starstarstarstar Wed 11/5/2008 08:31AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I was able to see this awesome & amazing band in Madison a month ago. The venue was an orchestra hall. The acoustics were splendid. The band blew us all away with a 30 song show. All with a 5 min. break in-between. The band is so tuned in to providing the best live show possible. That's a direct reflection of Ryan being sober. Keep it up, Cardnals! I'll see you in December with Oasis.

acomma Wed 11/5/2008 03:19PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


He has THE best voice in the business.

mmmFriedFrogLegs starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/5/2008 04:18PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


see him live while he's in his prime!(i think he really stepped his game up in 2005) just saw em less than a month ago in alabama. ryan adams voice is as powerful as a WMD and the cardinals are a force to be reckoned with.

mcbacuma Wed 11/5/2008 05:03PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I like his music. Reminds me a lot of Gram Parsons... The dude just seems like such a dick.

Daddyphatsacks Wed 11/5/2008 09:07PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


My favorite band right now by far. Feels like that's saying a lot, but it's true. Can't wait for the next Cardinals solo tour. I'm sure the Oasis gig is sick, however they're just the opener so it's hard to justify the coin. We'll see you in Vegas in Dec. and then after that it's Card only....

Great review. We all wish we could have been there with yaa.

Daddyphatsacks starstarstarstarstar Wed 11/5/2008 09:09PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Yes, the Ryan Adams Archive is ridiculous.