While I didn’t walk into Ryan Adams’s concert Saturday night at the Palace Theatre knowing much more about him than his last album and his sometimes cantankerous personality, I walked out wanting to know his music, and him, a lot more. He delivered it all from his catalog — the rockers, the banter for which he is known, a delicious improv song and the lush, gorgeous ballads.
And the lively yet attentive crowd ate it up. There were many moments where you could nearly hear a pin drop. The Palace Theatre’s pristine setting and impeccable acoustics made Saturday night almost perfect.
Opener Butch Walker did a nice job of warming up the crowd for Adams. His blend of tender acoustic songs and Southern rock worked well with Adams’ own heartland rock. This makes sense, considering that Walker announced on stage that Adams is producing his next record.
Adams and co. tore into a few rockers to start off the show. “Gimme Something Good,” and “Stay With Me,” two songs from his newest self-titled album, which came out this fall, sounded flawless and it was clear how tight the band was from the show’s onset.
The guitar interplay between Adams and guitarist Mike Viola was a highlight for the duration of the show. Their interlocking melodies were mellifluous and well constructed. Adams, in particular, had some wonderful guitar solos, especially at the end of “Shadows” from that same terrific album.
And the entire band showed off the diversity of Adams’ repertoire throughout the night. At one moment, they could be tearing through a song from Adams’s punky “1984” EP, released this year, and at the next they could be accompanying Adams through a more tender tune like his acoustic “Dear Chicago.”
They also added new layers live that are not found on the studio versions of songs like “I See Monsters.”
Adams also made a show of his own versatility and of his witty, forceful personality. One of the show’s funniest and most memorable moments came when Adams ad-libbed a song off of a joke he’d made earlier in the show. Early on, he’d noted that the ornate, old-fashioned “fire hose” sign at the side of the theatre looked like it could sell you a pizza. When a heckler screamed “fire hose pizza” later on, Adams immediately went with the flow and started coming up with lyrics like (in reference to such pizza) “It might even get you laid/Or neutered and spayed” as the band played along.
He found himself cracking jokes like this all night long, at one point, mocking the band for playing music as he took a sip of water.
So it was all the more noteworthy that he could have the audience hanging on his every word (some gave Adams a standing ovation for the “fire hose pizza” bit while many others tweeted about it) during these lighter moments at the same time as he wooed them with his somber, touching songs. “Oh My Sweet Carolina” featured a poignant line — “May you one day carry me home/I ain’t never been to Vegas but I gambled up my life.”
All in all, Saturday night’s show made me think that Adams fits along well with a number of successors to brilliant classic rock songwriters like Springsteen, Dylan, and Tom Petty. He can make a crowd laugh, cry and rock out — in just one night. Is there anything more that you can ask from a concert?