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Old 12-08-2011, 06:53 AM   #4
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Re: Carnegie Hall, NYC (Dec 6 2011)

This show got a great review from the NYT. Maybe a little snarky final sentence, though.

“Now I’m going to play a ballad,” Ryan Adams deadpanned partway through his solo concert on Tuesday night at Carnegie Hall. The joke was that he had been playing virtually nothing but ballads: one slow, perfectly poised song after another, presented so quietly that listeners leaned forward to catch each delicate moment. Between songs he wisecracked, drawing hoots and guffaws. “I don’t know why I write these kinds of songs,” he said. “I’m not sensitive at all. I’m a bastard.” Then the next song would create another gorgeously hushed communion.

Mr. Adams was singing about travels and separations, about love giving way to loneliness, about longings and failings: perpetual estrangement amid rare moments of comfort. Place names — New York, Chicago, Houston, Cleveland — are scattered through his lyrics along with plainspoken questions and confessions: “I feel like somebody I don’t know/Are we really who we used to be?” he sang in “Lucky Now,” from his superb new album, “Ashes & Fire” (PaxAm/Capitol).

Mr. Adams hasn’t always been quiet. In his 1990s band, Whiskeytown, and in his 21st-century solo career, he has played country-rock, folk-rock, even some hard rock. But on this tour, with Mr. Adams onstage alone with two guitars, an upright piano and a harmonica, even songs that he recorded with a full band have had their defenses removed. An older song like “Firecracker,” which was a rowdy Dylanesque flirtation in its studio version, revealed itself as a plea for closeness. Mr. Adams has stripped the music to its barest minimum: his high, melting tenor voice and an accompaniment that measures every choice of picked note or strummed chord, where they’re placed on the guitar, whether they build or taper away. In such tautly pristine arrangements a lone chord can arrive like a thunderclap.

Mr. Adams’s obvious model is Neil Young, whose solo concerts are just as meticulous; his chiseled, folky melodies and pure voice also hark back to Mr. Young. But Mr. Adams has a more puckish side too, one that came out in his between-song monologues, which cited, among other things, the hard-rocker Danzig and a pop-dance act, C + C Music Factory. At one point Mr. Adams misheard a call from the audience — probably a request — as “Howard is beautiful,” which he pondered for a moment and then turned into a long, zany song about technology, “interdimensional beings,” envy and adoration.

Before the encore Mr. Adams improvised another song, a thank you to the audience, in which he recapped all his banter, all his throwaways and spontaneous, surreal asides. Clearly he had been listening to himself as intently as his fans did.
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