Ryan Adams – review

Union Chapel, London

What does a hellraiser do when he reaches 37 and finds little hell left to raise? For Ryan Adams, whose unpredictability has kept fans enthralled for nearly 20 years, the next step is to slow down and let a little sunshine in. Not too much, obviously, but enough to turn this show into a mutually happy experience. For over two hours, the North Carolina-born singer surefootedly glided through 26 delicate songs, punctuating them with genial chat.

He himself pointed out the deficiencies of tonight's solo acoustic setup. Without his now-defunct Cardinals backing band to provide camouflage, the onus was on him to "work the stage", he said wryly, which he did by "sitting there and talking about my feelings". That got a big chuckle, which says something about the relationship between the singer and his uncommonly devoted fans: every witticism provoked gales of laughter, every song ecstatic applause. It often felt as if the crowd were protective parents and Adams the wayward son – even an improvised tune about a sweater was greeted with enchanted squeals.

Musically, he was in an expansive mood. The set offered an overview of his career, from alt.country beginnings with the band Whiskeytown to his current album, Ashes & Fire, and even included a song he'd never played live before, Rocks. He sang it unhurriedly, chewing over a lyric that, characteristically, painted him as a romantic who doesn't know the meaning of "healthy detachment".

If the show had one fault, it was tempo: even Adams acknowledged that it erred on the soporific side. "I could get sponsored by [insomnia medication] Ambien," he joked. The fans laughed joyously, but the man had a point: a little bounce wouldn't have marred this otherwise lovely set.

Contributor

Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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