July 25, 2007

Ryan Adams in Berkeley: Yeah, I can’t even pretend to be cool about this

I’ll try and be nonchalant, but that’s pretty much the best picture I’ve gotten to be in this year. Maybe ever. I got to meet Ryan after the Berkeley show last night, and we talked about some interesting stuff. He seems somehow smaller in real life, with very penetrating eyes. Keep readin’, keep readin’. . .

The show itself was absolutely fantastic, and that surprised me because the venue is all seats (which I thought equaled sedate; I was wrong). Plus I thought I’d already gotten the very best from the Santa Cruz show (again; wrong). The Berkeley Community Theatre is a high school auditorium and had the distinctive feel of such, down to the drinking fountains and some undefinable quality to the bathrooms – I was almost expecting pink powdered handsoap. The difference between my own high school and this one, though, is that my high school never hosted Jimi Hendrix, The Clash or Ryan Adams.

As I was walking into the auditorium from the lobby, the usher was checking my ticket, and the guy standing right in front of me in a very anticlimactic way was Ryan Adams, setlist and Sharpie in hand. He was relaxed and amiable, wearing some sort of death metal t-shirt, a black hoodie with a denim jacket over it, and a pair of tighter jeans than any I own. He was walking around the hall conducting a “First Annual Audience Poll” for the setlist. This, compared to what I had heard about his virtual refusal to speak a single word to the crowd in San Francisco the night before was pretty astounding, and boded well for an engaging evening.

As I stood there with him in the lobby, on such short notice the first thing I could think of that I’d love to hear was the b-side “Halloween.” He looked up at me with an encouraging smile and said excitedly, “No, think big. Think full band electric, me and the Cardinals!” I couldn’t think deeply on such short notice, standing next to Ryan, so the moment passed and he went on to the girl next to me who asked for “Come Pick Me Up.” I spent the next two hours thinking off and on of what I should have said. There are so many of his songs that I’d love to hear them incorporate into the Cardinals’ current sound. Very nice idea from Ryan.

From where I was sitting (with a camera with no flash) the sound was excellent, and Ryan and The Cardinals took the stage close to 9pm with massive amounts of energy. They played over two hours with a quick intermission –so Ryan could go drink some juice, he said– and no encore. He was definitely the most chatty and entertaining between songs as I’ve heard in a long time. From singing an impromptu custom birthday song to a girl a few rows up from us named Summer Rae Brown (it’ll be the smash hit of her summer for sure) to making up poems about his love for Cheez-Its (me too, Ryan, me too) it was hilarious.

Someone in the front said something to him and in a stage whisper he replied, “Dude, I totally can’t talk right now, I’m WORKING.” He also joked about having a camera in his tie and being on “lady patrol,” with the priceless aside of “I would never trust a woman who would tolerate my shit.” But the best part was — he kept the banter strictly between songs instead of right in the middle of them like he kept doing at the acoustic show last year at the Palace of Fine Arts. This was very good.

The energy and cohesiveness of the band was a force that kept me glued to the show even though I was seated. The three personal highlights of the setlist were an unexpected & searing electric version of “When The Stars Go Blue,” a gorgeous performance of “Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part,” which may have hit me like a fist to the gut and made me cry (maybe, just hypothetically), and an absolutely electrify-me-down-to-my-toes closer of “I See Monsters,” which was even better than the one we got in Santa Cruz. Ryan writhed and pulled every note of that song out of his guitar like he was battling a demon, or wrestling with an angel. I felt it too. I left that show completely sated.

Full setlist:

A Kiss Before I Go
Please Do Not Let Me Go (smolders)
Goodnight Rose
Peaceful Valley
Easy Plateau
Beautiful Sorta
Happy Birthday Summer Rae Brown
When The Stars Go Blue
I Taught Myself How To Grow Old
Everybody Knows
Let it Ride


Blue Hotel
Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part
Dear Chicago
What Sin Replaces Love
band intros
Cold Roses
Shakedown on 9th Street
I See Monsters
(the seamless combination of Shakedown directly into I See Monsters was astoundingly awesome)

My friend Sharif and I decided to hang around a little bit nonchalantly on the sidewalk behind the venue, just because we like doing that and you never know who you’ll run into. In this case, for instance, we saw Ryan in the park right across the street from the high school, walking alone in the empty fountain and balancing on walls. He crossed back over to the venue side of the street and was sitting, leaning against the wall in the shadow of an enormous bouncer when we stopped to chat for a few minutes.

The box set of unreleased material is definitely happening, he tells me, and all next week they are working on finishing up the artwork. It’s up to seven discs now, and he assures me that it’s a lot of stuff that even us crazy fans have not heard. For instance, he said that the Suicide Handbook material that we have (and love) is leaked from the studio and only contains his acoustic guitar and vocals, but that we’ve never heard it as we soon will — with a 16 piece string section, among other things. Also, I asked him if the lusted-after Elizabethtown Sessions will be included on there and he said he thought so, that that “album” is actually called Darkbreaker.

The logjam in my brain also finally had cleared during the show when it hit me that an awesome addition to his current setlist would be “Hotel Chelsea Nights” from the Love Is Hell album. It could fit nicely into the intense electric vibe, and add some swagger and cool class. I suggested it and his face lit up. He told me that they had actually been working that very song out recently to start playing in their Cardinals shows and that he was excited about it. Maybe we’ll get it in Boulder?

I really couldn’t ask for more. It was an excellent show and I drove home with an indelible smile on my face that won’t go away.

Tagged with , .


  • wow! amazing! i am so jealous!

    theEvilAngel — July 26, 2007 @ 9:14 am

  • I am so ridiculously jealous that you got to meet the Ryan. I can only hope for something that cool tomorrow night.

    wakeboarder69 — July 26, 2007 @ 9:15 am

  • My sentiments exactly. The SF show was great in its own way, but Berkeley was unreal. At least we got one song off of Love is Hell. Sounds like I should have stuck around a little longer though…Any idea if the music they were playing before the show was “DJ Reggie”?

    Nicky — July 26, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  • What a nice blog entry. Wow, that’s a really good picture! Lucky!!!! : )

    Liz — July 26, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  • Yeah, those were some of the DJ Reggie tracks that were being used as house music.

    The thing that got me about this show is how intense everything was. I am used to going to shows with people at least standing and doing the rock-it-out sway if not the whole boneless chicken shake. That show had everyone plastered to their seats, jaws hanging, and wondering where in the world is this coming from.

    I for one hope that this show ends up on the LMA ASAP.

    Anonymous — July 26, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  • nice things happen to nice people. He didn’t happen to mention when the NYC dates are being announced? ;) I love your blog

    Anonymous — July 26, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  • Hokey smokes! I think you are my new hero. Would’ve loved to have heard “I See Monsters” in that setting. Sheesh.

    Our Beloved Composer — July 26, 2007 @ 10:37 pm

  • Great blog. ‘Twas my first RA show and I thought it was excellent music, and excellent entertainment.

    Claude — July 26, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  • That’s really cool! Go you. And wow, what a wonderful picture.

    Shelby — July 27, 2007 @ 12:16 am

  • You are one lucky sonuvabitch

    Anonymous — July 27, 2007 @ 3:34 am

  • Heather,
    Obviously I don’t even know you, but that is such a cool picture. You’re just beaming…so great.

    In my leaner, younger years I had occasion to meet Bruce Springsteen (who I was a long time fan of, at the time) and I had a similar picture taken…just knocks your pins out from under you…just too freakin’ cool…

    Good for you,
    David M.

    Murgs — July 27, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  • Ohhhh I have chills! And I’m slightly nauseous.

    And oh, ever so EVER SO jealous!!


    Sarah — July 27, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  • Do you have more pics to share??

    theEvilAngel — July 27, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  • Nice shot!

    Add me to the list of the insanely jealous.

    Elle — July 27, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  • great review Heather..I can’t even imagine the Shakedown into Monsters transition…something that never even would’ve occurred to me. hope a recording surfaces so I can hear it at some point.

    good to see our boy looking so clear eyed these days.

    dwymer7003 — July 27, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  • nice post, better picture. you look really happy!

    ortholomeux. — July 27, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

  • Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part, Dear Chicago, I See Monsters ——- nice show. And damn, you got to hang out with him. He’s one of the only musicians these days that matters as a greater personality. Good for you.

    Larry Bird — July 28, 2007 @ 2:52 am

  • yes Heather, halloween it’s really the best ryan adams’ song..how i’d love to hear it live!

    gabriele — July 28, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  • I’ve started reading your blog recently and wanted to say ‘hello’.I’ve linked you on my humble blog too which can be found here:

    Sentimental Geek — July 29, 2007 @ 11:00 am

  • I dunno if you’ve ever seen this before.

    Ryan Adams and Elton John.


    SB — July 30, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  • I’m glad you liked his show. He absolutely blew last night in SLC. Maybe I have to go to Cali next time if I’m going to enjoy him?

    Dainon — August 1, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  • i think you should have asked him to play mahler’s 8th symphony, heather.

    you and i both have a HALLOWEEN fixation.

    but you’ll have to ask cwb about my own ;-))

    i used to (as recently as last december at town hall) yell out for both halloween and apt # 9 (tammy wynette and keith richards, to name a couple who’ve covered the song), but calling for i see monsters always works, because, it’s 99.9% on every setlist, and one feels like they scored by night’s end (vbg)

    as for meeting ryan, i’ve met him before — on his birthday, a few years ago after his club plaid gig that was thrown by drea dematteo and which “starred” jesse malin.

    but, again, my agent, cwb, could tell you more on my behalf: no growing up in public.

    just name dropping :)

    RnRNegro — August 1, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

  • damn it, chloe — you should have asked for isis-lovesick-isis: i saw it live in concert, and so should everyone else!

    i need you to send in a chopper, and I need a GPS on his former band, the sweetheart revolution, now!

    RNRNEGRO — August 1, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  • That’s so effing cool Heather! And you look absolutely gorgeous in the picture!

    jojo — August 1, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  • Ryan was 45 minutes late coming to the stage (ugh). They went right into the setlist and he didn’t even talk to the audience at all for at least 6-7 songs or so. He played mostly off of Cold Roses and on up to the newer material. No ‘classic’ songs as I would consider them. He seemed bored and uninterested in engaging the audience whatsoever. When he did, he mumbled something about the Moore being haunted. At one point he made some comments to the band and it sounded like- in a robot type-voice; ‘now we play more music’. I guess he felt like he was just going thru the motions. He sipped on what looked like a soda (14 mos. sober from what I’ve read lately) and didn’t smoke one single cigarette…quite a contrast from last time.

    ON the other hand, though, The performance of the band were exemplary, and Ryan’s vocals really soared at some points, very good indeed. It did just kind of leave me cold however, and wanting a little of the ‘old’ Ryan to show up- at least for the mildly entertaining dialogue that was completely gone from this show. I kept waiting for them to kick it up a notch, bring the energy level higher, but it never happened. The entire show seemed to be at the same pace and temperament. I found myself somewhat disappointed. Walking out, the girl behind me said she was ‘underwhelmed’.
    —I still love him though. —

    wakeboarder69 — August 3, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →