I don't go to many shows at venues that hold more than 500 people. So I already felt out of place at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center the night Ryan Adams and the Cardinals were set to play. The lobby at the 1000+ seat venue was overloaded with trampy sorority girls, bearded folkies, and more than four pregnant women in Ugg boots (?); all were sipping wine and mixed drinks that they paid WAY too much for. (Two Guinness for me and my friend ran a total of $15--you do the math.)
Like everyone else, we heard a rumor that the night before Mr. Adams wed his one-time teenage pop star fiance', Mandy Moore, but I didn't believe it until the woman beside me pulled up the story on MTV.com on her Blackberry. And I don't believe anything until MTV.com confirms it to be true. Taking the stage at 8:45 to shouts of "Congratulations!" and "Where's Mandy?" the band seemed relaxed and official sounding. The guitars were tuned and ringing, and the floor tom had enough bass to it to shake a ribcage loose from it's skin.
Adams stuck to his livelier, more focused albums for the set: Cold Roses, Easy Tiger, and Cardinology, with the occasional tune from Heartbreaker and the Love is Hell series. In one sense it was the most predictable set of songs one could imagine, but with an artist like Adams, sometimes predictability is exactly what you want. After a number of songs, though, Adams announced there were some problems with the in-ear monitors (apparently they were picking up a radio station) and took a short ten minute intermission before returning--only to discover that the problem had not gone away. But Adams promised to "persevere and make this awesome." I took him at his word, even when some of the rhythmic noodle-jams between him and guitarist Neal Casal went on way too long with no direction.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who seemed bored because Adams signaled out a woman about three rows back in a red dress who was less than enthusiastic about the band's show. "We've been rockin' so hard for you!" he pleaded. "And we're sorry we suck so bad." He then proceeded to serenade her with an impromptu song called, "We Suck." If it wasn't the highlight of the night, it was definitely a rare show of humor from an otherwise humorless, unstable artist.
The show crested after that; now we got more guitar noodling, and some safe songs. And I was just getting settled in when Adams announced that the next song was about "Satan and fucking." A thumping version of "Magick" was followed by the end of the show. "Thanks you guys for coming out," and the house lights went up.
I checked my watch: 10:20. Disbelief all around. Surely an encore? Nope. They're taking equipment down onstage. "That's it," my friend said. We headed for the car and listen to folks outside who were visibly seething at the lack of an encore. And I felt the same way; a piano went untouched onstage, almost no songs from Gold, and we got three Neal Casal songs. "I didn't pay to see a Neal Casal show," my friend said, and he dropped me off at home and decided to head to The Pour House to catch Lucero. He'd never seen them before and I tell him that, even if they play the worst show of their life, it's probably still better than the Ryan Adams show we saw.
The Setlist, as I heard it:
Born Into the Light
Come Pick Me Up
Neal Casal sings song #1
(brief intermission with house lights while in-ear monitors are fixed)
Why Do They Leave?
Neal Casal sings song #2
Shakedown On 9th St
We Suck (impromptu song)
Let It Ride
I See Monsters
Neal Casal sings song #3
Funniest, yet saddest, conversation overheard at the show:
"Dude, how about him playing Oasis? That was cool, right?"
"Yeah...are you sure that's an Oasis song? You sure it's not one his songs?"
(*note to reader, these two gentlemen were approximately my age, 28-32)
"I don't know man, it could be..."
"I'm pretty sure it is. It's on one of his albums."
"What...you think Oasis covered his song?"
"Yeah, probably. I mean he wrote that song 'Stars Go Blue'..."
"So you think he licensed his song to Oasis?"
The local paper, Charleston City Paper, has a review that is a little less flattering in it's sentiment and also contains some incorrect information. Read it here.
And here's some shitty cell-phone pics of the stage:
Good luck with the writing career, Mr. Adams. I mean that sincerely.