I should perhaps go ahead and post a disclaimer: The following dispatch will be of no use to you if you've already read George's 'Easy Tiger' review. You will have already come to expect everything that I will proceed to say.
As I've mentioned before, I'll most likely leave the heavy-handed reviews to George. I believe he's much better equipped with the patience and stability to adequately dissect and debate the merits of new studio works, so long as I'm on the road.
That being said, seeing Ryan Adams at Higher Ground in Burlington, VT the other night seemed exactly like the sort of affair one would come to expect from a newly sober Adams. As an artist who's been alternately lauded with mountains of praise and excoriated with trash heaps of vitriol, one could conjecture that Adams might be moving toward maturity and indemnity by making amends with both of these contingents. (See AA Step #8.)
Adams chose to ameliorate the other night by "dad-rocking." Having to witness Wilco, another favorite, introduce three pieces to their gig ensembles, I'm pretty wary of bands who wish to dress for concerts or affairs in suits. Blazers and slacks were a staple of 60's bands performing on variety shows, but today's bands needn't have to break through TV barriers to reach viewers and sponsors any longer. Music lovers and the general populace have come to accept rock n' roll for what it is, which is sadly an almost impotent form of social subversion.
Therefore, Ryan and the boys showed up in suits. They sat down. Everybody knew they were to make "serious music." Adams gripped the mic as he once grabbed the bottle, dependent upon its ability to produce sentiment and truth. There was buzz about an injured hand. There was also conjecture about Adams wanking too hard. Adams, Cards and Co. rolled through the new songs, each as spot-on as the next, pristine and album-worthy. Hardly any dialogue. 'Carolina Rain' was pretty epic. Neil Casal provided some sweet guitar playing on 'Let it Ride.' Adams managed to pull out a somewhat convincing cover of Alice in Chains' "Down in a Hole." Hardly anything released previous to 2005 was played.
Going back to the suit theme of the night, Tweedy managed to introduce a business-like component to the band during the "Ghost is Born" era, but Adams has always been slave to his beautiful songs being purely dependent upon his ramshackle despondency. The 'Cold Roses' jam band teases were fun, but were never received like Adams' other albums because of the lack of brevity and other elements involved in Adams communicating a jam. In Burlington, Adams neither provided the band a focus nor took command of his presence as a drunken mutineer and showman.
Anyhow, a sort of disappointment plagued me after the show. I met Adams, a fellow native of Jacksonville, NC, a town he's mythologized in song, mentioned I was from there and only received simple responses, "Oh, right on. Tarheel state, bro."
I'm aware of his status. I'm aware that he's rather used to being catered to.
But, would Springsteen say the same thing to a man from Asbury Park?