Ryan Adams at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 19th March by Jack Bezants
“I know most of you aren’t used to music that goes this fast, so put on your racing helmets,” joked Ryan Adams, having ambled onstage in his uniform double denim to open this year’s Teenage Cancer Trust gigs at The Royal Albert Hall.
Noel Gallagher, the curator of this week’s event, introduced the 38-year-old from Jacksonville, North Carolina by saying “he has brought something of a supergroup with him”. To say “something” was perhaps an understatement; to any fan in-the-know, Adams had just rolled into the coliseum-esque building with some of the most acclaimed and accomplished musicians in the business.
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns was on guitar, Benmomt Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took to the keys and Don Was, producer of albums by Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, was on bass. Jeremy Stacey of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird’s played the drums and the brilliantly named Cindy Cashdollar, who has previously backed Dylan and Van Morrison, was on dobro.
It took only the first words to be sung from the opening song ‘Dirty Rain’ to realise that Adams himself was on brilliant form – something that was embellished by his band. Collectively, they knew when to rally together in a majestic ensemble but also knew when to ease out of a song, allowing Adams’ flawless vocals and seamless guitar playing to soar in unison.
And it was his singing style that was magnificently infectious and capturing. It did not take the most imaginative audience member to picture Adams sat at a bar, feeling remorseful about “27 years of nothing but failures and promises I couldn’t keep” like he sings of in ‘Let It Ride’.
‘Why Do They Leave’ from 2000’s ‘Hearbreaker’ and ‘Nobody Girl’, a surprise inclusion from ‘Gold’, were perhaps the greatest examples of Adams combining with his band. The latter song included a mesmerising solo from Ethan Johns as the prodigious skill of Adams and his group intertwined to reach its zenith.
The alt. country troubadour performed ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and ‘English Girls Approximately’ completely solo, which conveyed the sheer visual presence Adams possesses as performer.
He enjoyed some verbal jousting with the audience, too. At the end of ‘Sweet Carolina’, he responded to an adrenaline-fuelled shout of “that was outstanding” from a middle-aged, male audience member with: “Gosh, thanks Dad.”
Some audience members may have felt a little dismayed that Gallagher did not join for a rendition of ‘Wonderwall’, of which Adams covered on his 2003 album, ‘Love Is Hell’.
Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing it never happened. The audience left the Albert Hall talking about him and how good he was but still wanting to be given more.
But nobody was left unhappy with what they had just witnessed. Just possibly, last night was the performance Ryan Adams has been threatening to give for many years, the night where he progressed beyond being very good.
Surrounded by a band that allows him to flourish in the way he did last night, Adams may well have just moved into his canonical realm.
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