Ryan Adams is in good form tonight, perhaps too good a form. During the first of two sold-out nights at Dublin’s Olympia, he spends an immoderate amount of time chatting to the audience. Early in the set there’s the old de rigueur, “Dublin, you are amazing. I wish I could play here every damn night!” Adams says it with so much conviction you almost believe him and then he long-windedly regales us with a tale of a rat-infested apartment he once rented in New York and that unbeknownst to him at the time, his future guitarist in the current touring line-up lived nearby. Later, he waxes lyrical on the pros and cons of telling noisy gig-goers to shut up during the quiet bits, then concludes it’s pointless. Fair enough, but we’re hoping for someone to shout “shut up and play the hits,” and eventually, without such an insistence, our main attraction does just that and it’s glorious.
Tonight’s gig is a nicely calibrated progression through each phase of his prolific career to date, picking the choicest cuts from each period. So we get a few outings from his time with the Cardinals: ‘Let It Ride’, ‘Magnolia Mountain’ and ‘Peaceful Valley’. ‘Gimme Something Good’, ‘Kim’ and ‘Trouble’ are presented from the brilliant, eponymously-titled album from last year. ‘This House Is Not For Sale’ still sounds as raw as it did a decade ago and the hit ‘New York’ gets an airing, too. Support act Natalie Prass provides serene accompaniment on ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and she returns again for a quietly affecting ‘Come Pick Me Up’.
Adams, his face almost completely obscured by an unruly fringe, has a quirky stage persona that sometimes feels at odds with the depth and quality of his musical canon. Yet, his (and his co-players’) musicianship is flawlessly note-perfect, his voice in fine fettle, the setlist all killer, no filler. He’s a mercurial talent and quite possibly a genius. Oh, and at the end of the gig, there was a sword fight involving Adams and his band, complete with sound effects and a dry-ice machine that seemed to be out of control. It was that sort of night.