Thursday night I got to see Ryan Adams for the first time and it was different, perhaps, than I expected â€“ a lot more “free form?” â€“ but pretty dang phenomenal. The Palace of Fine Arts was a fantastic place to see a show, I’d never been there before. It was an intimate venue and Ryan was in chatty form. I hear that Wednesday night was variable quality (as Ryan said Thursday, “Look, it’s no secret that I’m, like, doing that great tightrope walk between suck and maybe goodâ€¦”). I thought Thursday was rambling but good.
I loved the solo acoustic interpretations, and a fine, fine setlist. And, yes, it was mostly true what my new pal Nathan said, “You’ll probably find all the chatter endearing.” The overall feel was a mix of sitting in Ryan’s living room and listening to some sort of stream-of-consciousness interview.
Interesting comment from someone over on the Ryan Adams Archive site, which the more I read over, the more I think is a valid point: “The upside, if you were in the mood for it, was a very personal / intimate hangin’ out with Ryan thing where we (the audience) were both therapist and entertainer for him â€“ as well as being entertained by him. The downside was that we got too few songs and very few sung without interruptions of patter or joking that somewhat broke or (imho) belittled the emotional intensity & spell of the piece. Came away wanting to worship him and slap him upside the head at the same time. You are probably thinking â€˜what else is new?’. I know most of our heroes have feet of clay â€“ the artistic cauldron â€“ inspired madness and all that – I just wish he would respect his own gifts more and honor this amazing music that comes through him.”
I was able to record the Palace of Fine Arts show, so you can hear it too. I was pretty impressed at how the sound quality turned out for just being recorded on a little $60 digital voice recorder thingie. (Maybe I am impressed because my audio-technology-knowhow falls somewhere on the scale between that of a box of dirt and pet gerbil). Hence it is far from perfect quality, but for those of you that were there, you can relive the set, and for those that weren’t, you can hear all the chatter and two new songs (and the occasional guffaw that I let out, even though I tried to keep my mouth shut. I have a hard time with that. Just ignore me and my friends’ chatter. Sincere apologies.)
Oh, so we’ll call this “Set One:”
PALACE OF FINE ARTS SET (Zip file link at end of setlist)
Brown Sugar & Why Do They Leave? (forgot to break this into two tracks)
Sweet Lil Gal (23rd and 1st)
Banter 1 & 2
Banter 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 (I kept starting recording, thinking a song was coming. But nope.)
Don’t Get Sentimental On Me (new)
Blue Hotel (new)
“I Want It That Way” (Ryan is fixin to join the Backstreet Boys if this whole solo thing doesn’t work out)
Please Do Not Let Me Go
New York, New York
Come Pick Me Up
Banter 9 & 10
(teaser) Oh My Sweet Carolina? In My Time Of Need?
Solitaire (w/ Jesse Malin)
Following the Palace of Fine Arts show, my friend Julia and I jetted on over to 12 Galaxies club. After stashing our cars in an alley by her apartment, we walked hastily to the club, nervous and excited because Ryan was playing a “Set Two” with Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead. A mere $5 cover, all going to charity (supporting the cause of organ donation â€“ they can have mine, not sure if they want my liver).
I hear everyone (who was over 21) who was waiting outside got in, which was great because there was a massive line and I wasn’t sure if all the cool kids in the back made it in for an incredible show.
I was maybe the 15th person in the door, and headed right to the front. I was literally about 5 feet from Ryan when he came on stage. It was an absolutely amazing vantage point, to see every scowl and chord and smile and interaction on stage.
Ryan seemed like a completely different person for Set Two – engaged, on fire, sharp, musically adventurous, and basically just enjoying himself – and loving the music. He and Phil even kissed once, ain’t that sweet.
I am far from being a Dead fan, but of all the times I wish I had known a lyric, this was it: Ryan blanks on a verse to one of the Dead songs and leans down front to me and asks “Do you know it?” holding out his hand to me. Uhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . nope. Damn. But later on when he forgot one of his own lyrics, he asked again, and this time my fabulous cohorts jumped up to the plate with the needed memory jog, and he carried on with the verse. So fun what can happen in such an intimate little place.
The version of “Cold Roses” was INSANELY jamming, I was mesmerized by the opening riff and how intricate the guitar fingerwork was. And by “Shakedown on 9th Street,” we were all pretty much hoarse from yelling along. “Luuucy, lucy my gal….” “What Sin” was so stretched out into these mega-jams that I almost didn’t recognize it. And “I Still Miss Someone” was jammy, electric and rockin like I have never heard it before; I think Johnny Cash would have just shook his head, but probably appreciated the passion behind it.
12 Galaxies Setlist (“Set Two”)
Not Fade Away
Help On The Way
What Sin Replaces Love
Wharf Rat > Not Fade Away
A Kiss Before I Go
Dire Wolf (cut off)
China Cat (instrumental, cut off)
Shakedown on 9th Street
Not Fade Away
I Still Miss Someone
I don’t have anything from the second set, I was dancing too much to record (and fending off weird Deadheads who kept sweating on me).
We were discussing amongst ourselves in the audience who the kickass drummer was, sporting the Nirvana t-shirt, watching the guys for cues of where they were going in the jam. The story of how local San Franciscan drummer Chad Tasky got the gig with these two is a fan’s dream come true:
“i was at the ryan adams solo shows this past wednesday and thursday at the palace of fine arts in san francisco. my buddy robie and i are hanging out backstage when ryan shows up and says that he needs a drum kit so that his producer jamie can sit in on drums during the encore along with phil lesh - who is also scheduled to play during the encore. i graciously offer to rent them a set of my drums for the show, then race down to pick them up. ryan played… then ryan, phil, and jamie played the encore… then i went home.
upon arriving the next evening to watch the show then pick up my drums – i’m informed there’s been a secret benefit show scheduled for after the show at a small club in the mission district called 12 galaxies, and that i’ve been chosen to play drums. having the imaginary courage that i needed, i proceeded to play to a sold-out crowd with ryan, phil and a guitar-tech named harry for over two hours. the setlist was filled with dead songs ands ryan’s songs – which i did my best to pretend to know. what a crazy night. check out video and photos from the show.”
The whole night was so sweaty and rocking and mindblowingly fun that I felt like I needed to roll over and have a cigarette afterwards. And I don’t even smoke.
But it was that satisfying.
Thanks to Sherry for some of the pics (and loaning me her camera so I could take a few of these) and Sharif, who rocks. Also, check out this savage set of pictures on Flickr (and if you look at the one below, that is SO my arm on the left side of the shot. I am a geek, I know).