Ryan Adams electrifies the Cambridge Corn Exchange
The American alternative country star’s effortless mastery drew fans out in force to the city’s main pop music venue.
Since bursting onto the scene in the mid-90s as part of the band Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams has gone from strength to strength, releasing albums of often breathtaking brilliance with alarming regularity.
As he suffers from Ménière’s disease, a warning was given ahead of the show that flash photography can trigger an attack and that Ryan may well stop the show if this happens.
Needless to say, someone did take a photo with flash during the gig, causing the singer to understandably admonish them, commenting that the light was so bright it was as if they were using “Darth Vadar’s phone”(!).
Fortunately, he didn’t stop the show as a result.
“Hello, how ya doing?” announced the star, a man of few words – dressed in his usual t-shirt and denim attire – upon taking the stage, slightly later than billed.
Do You Still Love Me?, the first track – and single – from his latest album, the critically-acclaimed Prisoner (Adams’ 16th studio album), kicked off the set. It’s an excellent rock song that harks back to the heady days of the 80s ‘hair metal’ bands.
As much as I love his uptempo stuff, for me the 42-year-old truly shines on the slower, country-tinged material – where he’s pouring his heart out – and the first song of the evening to do this was the ethereal Two, off his 2007 LP Easy Tiger.
The lights were kept low, possibly because of his disease, and it was difficult to make out Adams’ face and those of the band – just that familiar mop of unkempt hair, which rather added to the slight air of mystery that surrounds him.
The backlights were constantly changing colour and provided a stirring backdrop. Everybody Knows, one of the artist’s finest moments, was terrific and the lighting recalled the video.
It’s difficult to choose, but other high points included When the Stars Go Blue, Tired of Giving Up and Magnolia Mountain.
Not only an emotionally-resonant singer of the highest order, Adams also displayed his musical virtuosity throughout – his guitar playing was first class and he successfully channelled his musical flair and intensity through a harmonica on New York, New York and Come Pick Me Up.
I’d waited a long time to see Ryan Adams in the flesh and he didn’t disappoint. Long may he continue to share his considerable gift with the world.