live review

Ryan Adams - The Opera House, Wellington

Ryan Adams - The Opera House, Wellington

July 16 2015
The Opera House, Wellington

Reviewed by Gerry Le Roux
17th July 2015

Rocking up to the Opera House last night to see Ryan Adams and his current band The Shining perform my expectations were pretty high. I’ve never seen him live before, but have been a bit of a fanboy since his Whiskeytown days and reviews of his recent concerts gave the impression that he was delivering some of the best shows of his career.

The first thing that transpires is that while The Shining is named as his band, rather than the more generic “Ryan Adams and band”, this is very much The Ryan Show. He is a magnetic performer, and even though he opted to not have the spotlight on him (literally) for much of the performance, it is hard to peel your eyes away from him. Even when he steps back and to the side, pulling classic rock guitarist poses during some of the extended jams, his presence is spellbinding. Not to take anything away from The Shining, mind you. They’re a super-tight, professional unit, delivering the songs with passion and precision. From quiet acoustic backing to meandering space jams to economic rock precision, they create a perfect envelope for Adams to excel in - they just don’t hog the spotlight in the slightest.

Listening to Ryan Adams, you cannot escape That Voice. In a way it doesn’t matter what songs from his extended catalogue Adams serves up - he could wring emotion from a budget speech. Surely one of the most gifted singers and interpreters of song out there, nailing every emotion from sweet innocence to cocky punk swagger to raw passion as he delivers his songs. But man, those songs… it’s almost unfair to be such an incredible singer and then, as perhaps the finest songwriter of his generation, also have such a back catalogue of songs. Hearing songs from across his career back to back, you are struck by the range, but also by the consistency, of his body of work.

Adams performs songs form the past two decades, from his early solo material, through his work with The Cardinals to his latest, self-titled album. Some of the old, more folksy songs are particular highlights, moments of pure beauty between the heavier rockers and soaring instrumental freak-outs. The songs from his latest album also benefit from added breathing space afforded them in the live setting - you can already hear some of these becoming standards of future shows.

This was a special show, an incredible performance. I arrived at the Opera House with high expectations. I left more than satisfied.


Photo by Ellen Richardson from Tuesday night's concert in Auckland. Head over here to see more.



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