Ryan Adams could convert any person at his concert into a mega-fan with his eccentric combination of rock music and comedy.
Last night he brought the house down as he played the Opera House in Wellington with his band The Shining. Things kicked off with a roar with solid grungy track Gimme Something Good from his latest self-titled album. He showed us his new stuff is just as good, if not better than his old, by doing a fantastic rendition of Let It Ride from his time with the Cardinals before cranking back into the recent track Stay With Me which sounded just as awesome.
Then came the moment when we all knew we were in for a particularly magic night – Dirty Rain. This song had the audience mesmerised. Adams and his band took things down a notch for this slower track. The stereotypical rock concert stage set of pinball machines, cat statues, giant amplifiers and a US flag was mellowed out as the back curtain resembled a nights sky full of stars.
Big rock tracks like Magnolia Mountain and Peaceful Valley showcased the pure talent of the rockers ruling the stage. Adams lead grungy guitar solos in true style, flipping back his trademark face-covering, shaggy hair and showing us he is entitled to wear the quintessential rocker outfit of denim on denim. But five tracks into this series of solo after solo, which flicked from shades of Neil Young and Crazy Horse to Tom Petty to U2, the crowd became a little weary. I found it hard to connect for this long when I’d still had no introduction to the band members of the Shining, so far we had no real feel for the group behind the music and who they were.
Of course, just as these thoughts entered my mind Adams came to the rescue and finally acknowledged the crowd. It was worth the wait. His much-loved bizarre and witty sense of humour was plain hilarious. The whole crowd was in stitches as he ran through a band introduction like no other. We now know: Mike Viola the guitarist likes Frankenstein, Thin Lizzy and makes a damn good lasagne. Drummer Freddie Bokkenheuser is like God and always watching Adams’ back. Bass player Charlie Stavish dominates on Playstation’s Tigers Woods Golf and Daniel Clarke on keyboards must be the favourite as he gets an entire spur of the moment song about train tracks made of steel (which makes no sense) dedicated to him. Lucky guy. It’s clear here how much the audience love his humour and have been waiting for it. But also how much the band appreciate playing with him.
After this came one of the most magic moments of the set, a beautiful rendition of Oh My Sweet Carolina. The newly introduced band came into itself with this slowed down song which was played to perfection, Mike Viola and Daniel Clarke provided amazing harmonies as well as a stunning keyboard organ solo. Out came the harmonica and the chills erupted down my spine – incredible.
The show rumbled along with a number of other special moments, like the particularly lovely When The Stars Go Blue which was followed by a hilarious description of how stars should never be blue cause that means they’re coming very close to you. It was a priceless moment of rambling gibberish, which had everyone giggling already before Adams abruptly stopped talking, swung his guitar into action and yelled at us “this song’s about fucking” while bursting into a crazy rendition of Shakedown On 9th Street.
As the set came to an end we were treated to an improv song to end all improv songs. Adams and his band joked about how it was that time of the night where they announced this was their last song before coming back on stage for a ‘fake encore’. After a conversation mix up, Adams soon felt obliged to play a song titled ‘fake encore’ and out it came. This wasn’t a rushed few words, it ended up being a full-length song, backed up beautifully by the Shining as Adams weaved from silly verses to the basic but effective chorus: “they all know it’s the end, they all know it’s the end, it’s just a fake encore.”
It was a moment of genius, I was close to tears I was laughing so hard. Although one verse was a little sad, and shed some light on some of the more sober events in his life recently: “Last time I came to this town, was the last time I spoke to my grandmother, I was also married, it was our first trip. Then that all turned to shit.”
The actual last song of the set, I See Monsters, was a stunning finale with a mind blowing build up culminating in a stunning explosion of sound at the end. Adams and his band didn’t bother to walk off stage afterwards but they still got a rapturous applause, I think partly because everyone knew what was coming next – Come Pick Me Up. This was the perfect rendition of what is his most successful song and it blew everyone away. The harmonica was chilling, his vocals were faultless and it all came together perfectly.
The crowd gave a standing ovation to which Ryan Adams returned a big, genuine thank you. I am certain everyone left 100% satisfied with what was a gig to remember.
Also – a special mention to show opener Hollie Fullbrook of Tiny Ruins. It’s not often an opening act can be quite so compelling when you’re so excited for the main event but she was outstanding. Superb vocals, impressive guitar playing and a refreshingly Wellington rapport with the crowd. Simply stunning.
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
Stay With Me
This House Is Not For Sale
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Oh My Sweet Carolina
When the Stars Go Blue
Shakedown on 9th Street
New York, New York
La Cienega Just Smiled
Fake Encore (Improv Song)
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up