Two years ago Ryan Adams blew the roof off Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. Then, touring his eponymously-titled 2014 album, the band belted out new songs and a host of rocking hits from over the past two decades. The eclectic repertoire sung out by our favourite rock-geek was well received, and while at that time State’s Ken Fallon reported that the setlist was “all killer, no filler”, tonight, his second Dublin show in two days is not quite the same.
Mr. Adams has plenty of attitude. Recent tweets hilariously mocking Julian Casablancas of The Strokes – “who got you strung out on lasagna tho?” – reminds us of his character. You can’t beat a bit of rock ‘n roll friction, and he holds that attitude on stage tonight, with talent to spare and incredible guitar playing. Opening with current album Prisoner‘s stylish cheese-rock beast ‘Do You Still Love Me?’, acoustics initially seem a bit empty and unfulfilled; but followed by Heartbreaker‘s ‘To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)’, which some might remember from the 2003 movie Old School, spirits are quickly regenerated.
The songs are often great, although regularly relying on quick-changing four-chord-choruses they are underwhelmingly similar when put in a line (maybe there’s a problem with the setlist arrangement?). There appear to be endless tracks waiting for the chorus ‘Kim’ from the 2014 album – but it ain’t played. There’s a lot of filler, but also incredible musicianship, a powerful voice, perfect harmonies, and great sounds learned from groups like The Smiths, Midlake, The E Street Band, and even Weezer for six seconds of a track opener. There’s grungy Neil Young stuff that reminds us of ‘Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World’ and a Steely Dan styled LA-esque jazz number which feels like an ode to the late Walter Becker.
Mr. Adams probably spends little time seriously considering his legacy: he’s into fun. While artists like Thom Yorke and friends sit and spend years working for perfection, this guy rattles them off year after year. Indeed that is sometimes the problem: his gigs are dotted with basic riffs and efforts in fun-rock, like ‘Halloweenhead’. Tonight the concert’s second half is underwhelming, only later revived with crowd-pleaser ‘New York’ and the incredible harmonica and chorus driven ‘Come Pick Me Up’ – the night’s best performance.
All in all, it’s is a bit lackluster: a friend described it as an indulgent rock show bookended by flashes of original alt-country gold. Adams’ best is indeed his country, and he should play more of it.
Ryan Adams photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko.