iTunes Festival 2014: Ryan Adams at Roundhouse
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Ryan Adams’ musical career is its sheer prolificacy and diversity, in spite of its relative brevity. Under various monikers, Adams has released a foray of material from country to black metal and collaborated with a colossal number of artists. It therefore comes as quite curious that his live set should revolve so much around promoting his recent self-titled album.
The whole “old-school” live aesthetic centres on a modular-organ-station with an American “Ban the Bomb” flag draped over it, like a bizarre cross between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Yes. Strolling nonchalantly to his place before the other musicians, denim-clad Adams opened the set with latest single Gimme Something Good and a few clips of banter, all of which felt a little restrained; following numbers Fix It and Dirty Rain, despite evident potential, similarly failed to ignite. Long gaps between songs as Adams adjusted his guitars were punctuated by jeers of “awkward silence”. The supporting musicians remained largely motionless for the duration of the performance, perhaps in an effort not to upstage Adams, who was himself initially without energy or charisma – in fact by far the most eccentric and animated of the figures on stage was the keyboardist.
It was in the second half of the performance, featuring mellower numbers Oh My Sweet Carolina, My Wrecking Ball, and Kim, that Adams was finally able to open up, digressing from canned interaction to his usual stoner humour and outlandish anecdotes. Uniquely for a prolific live act, Adams’ most recent material was met with far more enthusiasm, despite his joking claim that the audience “hated” it. The live debut of The Door, taken from the abandoned album project Blackhole, proved a particularly successful addition to the setlist.
By far the standout moment of the set, however, was the extended wailing and chaotic bridge of Shadows, which proved a fitting – and almost uncharacteristic – climax to the show. This was in fact a rare moment where Adams seemed to avoid the most critical error of his (and many similar) performances: while his vocal work confidently strides the line between power and accuracy without losing any emotion, the songs themselves were characterised primarily by an attempt to reproduce a “studio” sound, rather than allow the music to come into its own in a live setting.
Photo: Laura Musselman Duffy
iTunes Festival 2014 is on at the Roundhouse until 30th September. For further information or to book, visit here.
Watch the video for Gimme Something Good here: