It already seems like a few months ago that I saw Ryan Adams play at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California on June 3, 2017, rather than a few weeks ago. With the wrapping up of the school year and school-year-based activities, June can get pretty hectic and have been crammed full of events for my family. But that Saturday it was all about rocking out, having fun with friends, and enjoying the perfect Southern California weather, as Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band unleashed their music into the night.
Singer and guitar player Karen Elson opened, promoting her recent album Double Roses, with a band made up of a guitarist (Megan), fiddle player (Augusta), a harpist (Mary), and sometimes filling in with additional guitar and providing tech support, Jackson Smith. The musicians played beautifully and it was a unique experience to hear a harp as part of the opening band for a rock show. Karen’s songs were delicate and fairly mellow, sung casually with her pretty voice. The tunes were pleasant enough and provided a soothing ambience as people found their way into the theatre, but after a few songs that were of similar tempo and style, I was wishing for more variety in the pacing and approach. Her set list included the titles:
- “Wonder Blind” from Double Roses
- “Double Roses” from Double Roses
- “Hell and High Water” from Double Roses
- “Distant Shore” from Double Roses
- “Call Your Name” from Double Roses
- “The Ghost Who Walks” from The Ghost Who Walks
- “Marcys” — was listed on the set list, I have no idea what that means, I can’t find a song with that title
- “Wolf” from Double Roses
In contrast, Ryan has the personality and the musical goods to more than fill the stage and the carved out hillside of the Greek Theater. With his “Unknown Band” of ace players: Todd Wisenbaker on guitar, the “man who runs Pax-Am,” producer/engineer Charlie Stavish on bass, Ben Alleman on keyboards, and Aaron Ficca, who joined the touring band recently, on drums. In one of the amusing moments of the night, Aaron got mercilessly teased by Ryan for wearing a button-down shirt, “What the fuck is that shirt? It’s got buttons.” Ryan started up an impromptu song about the shirt and some woman in the audience yelled, “Take it off,” to which Ryan responded, “I’m not getting involved in that!” She called back, “I will.”
Ryan played a broad mix from his back catalogue with a few numbers from his latest album, Prisoner, and none of the tunes from the recently digitally released Prisoner (B-Sides). I understand with a big show like this one the desire to play the hits, jamming tunes, and more accessible songs. How I’d love to see an intimate show focused on recent deep cuts from Prisoner and the B-Sides. There is such a wealth of material there and so much of it so truly lyrically on point regarding the process of ending a relationship, it seems a shame to leave some of these pieces to only recordings. But perhaps as they are so personal it would be uncomfortable for him to perform some of them live? That’s a good thing that he can play through 22 songs and leave me still wanting more. Set list was as follows:
- “Let It Ride” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
- “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” from Heartbreaker
- “Magnolia Mountain” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
- “Two” from Easy Tiger, link to video I shot at this concert
- “Gimme Something Good” from Ryan Adams, another video I shot at this concert
- “Dirty Rain” from Ashes & Fire
- “Fix It” from Cardinology (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
- “Prisoner” from Prisoner, Ryan began this as an acoustic song at the front of the stage and finished it with the full band. The video at the link was one I shot at this concert. This was a highlight of the night. I’ve borrowed the first line of the song for the title of the blog post.
- “Outbound Train” from Prisoner, After the song Ryan talked about hearing other musicians complain about playing in L.A., saying something like, “I don’t like L.A. crowds, they’re so jaded.” His response, “Yeah, but have you tried our weed?” He also told a woman who was constantly holding up her phone recording the show and taking photos, “You’re going to get Carpe Diem Syndrome.” I don’t think she got the joke.
- “Shakedown on 9th Street” from Heartbreaker
- “Do You Still Love Me?” from Prisoner, link to official video
- “Stay With Me” from Ryan Adams
- “When the Stars Go Blue” from Gold
- “Ashes & Fire” from Ashes & Fire
- “Peaceful Valley” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
- “Dear John” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
- “Doomsday” from Prisoner, complete with A-Bomb detonations showing on the TV screens on stage
- “Wonderwall” from Love is Hell (Oasis cover)
- “Everybody Knows” from Easy Tiger
- “Invisible Riverside” from Ashes & Fire
- Implied Encore “New York, New York” from Gold, I recorded this video at the Greek, but the sound didn’t come out very well. Still you can see what it looked like at this concert. Another highlight for the night. The one song I really wanted to hear during this show as it has taken a special meaning on for me since I took a trip to New York not long after Ryan’s show at the Greek last year.
- “Come Pick Me Up” from Heartbreaker, performed with Karen Elson, link is to video someone else shot at the concert.