Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall

David Ryan Adams, known professionally as Ryan Adams, was born in 1974 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. At the age of 14, Adams began playing the electric guitar that his mother and stepfather bought him, and shortly afterward joined a local band named Blank Label. He played in local bands in north Florida and finally started a professional music career recording three albums with the alternative country-rock band Whiskeytown. Adams left Whiskeytown in 2000 to release his first solo album. He also released five albums with the rock band Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and under various pseudonyms recorded punk rock (as the Finger and Pornography), hip hop (various pseudonyms), black metal (as Werewolph) and hard rock (as Sleazy Handshake). Adams published Infinity Blues, a book of poems, and Hello Sunshine, a collection of poems and short stories. He released his 14th album, Ryan Adams, on September 9, 2014.

Ryan Adams first played an acoustic solo show at Carnegie Hall in 2011; this year's itinerary included two acoustic solo concerts at Carnegie Hall and two electric concerts with his current band at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The series began tonight with a 22-song set of hits, rarities and surprises. The selections were an eclectic collection, in that the young and prolific songwriter has amassed a catalogue of a few hundred songs over the past dozen years or so and, performing solo, he was not limited to the songs he rehearsed with a band. Adams opened with his first single in three years, "Gimme Something Good," with dark lyrics pondering the possibility of a new beginning. He followed on acoustic guitar and harmonica with "Oh My Sweet Carolina," his longing-filled ode to his home state. The set included one song, "Avenues" from his Whiskeytown days and three songs from his Cardinals days. Among his better known songs, he performed his "New York, New York," accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, followed by "Let It Ride." Between songs, the audience laughed as he bantered free-form about whatever came to mind. He rambled amusingly about the Terminator movies, listening to R.E.M. while tripping, "Ryan time" being impacted by potential overtime charges at Carnegie Hall, and how he felt like “the scuff on a clean shoe” at the prestigious venue. At one point he moved to the piano, improvising a tune about Billy Ocean in a faux Michael McDonald voice before singing "Sylvia Plath." For a newcomer, a two-hour acoustic set might have been too much; Adams' set tonight was designed for fans to hear more nuanced versions of his songs.

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