Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals


When the white-haired usher at the Paramount shines her flashlight on the ticket, she says, “The show tonight will start at 8:30pm, not 8pm.” The date on the ticket still reads “Tuesday, July 10th,” the performance’s originally scheduled date.

In light of Ryan Adams’ well-documented mishaps—a wrist-wrecking fall from a London stage, rambling posts on his website about hash and his tell-all addiction tale in a June New York Times feature—a minor delay always hints at the possibility of major wreckage within the frame of the toussle-haired 32-year-old musician.

Ryan Adams ripped through tunes old and new during the first of two roaring shows at the Paramount. Hey, as his new single claims, "It takes two when it used to take one."

So which Ryan shows up tonight? Does he show at all?

The lights yield to the rhythmic claps of the sold-out crowd and dim on a white drum kit bearing a pink rose silhouette. From stage right, The Cardinals—Adams’ four-piece, ’70s-style country-rock band—step out around an awkward speaker stack and a red piano at the stage’s corner. Following closely behind is the clean-shaven, straight-off-the-cover-of-Gold Adams, in jeans, boots and a football jersey t-shirt. Head hung low, he straps on a red Gibson and kicks up the band.

The band slowly unfurls the punchy opening riff of “Goodnight Rose” from Adams’ recent record, Easy Tiger, in the shimmering haze that defines Adams’ live sound. For an instant, the song sounds like the title track from 2005’s Cold Roses, and this is high praise: After his erratic personal life bled over to discolor his music, hearing Adams guide The Cardinals with such a personally crafted tone—Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers waves, guitar solos aligning and parting under the swell of the Cardinals’ lap steel guitarist—is a dazzling and gratifying experience.

The same sound carries Adams’ entire set, improving upon record versions of “Off Broadway” and “What Sin Replaces Love,” a bonus track from the Japan release of Jacksonville City Nights that could’ve saved the record and proves to be one of the night’s best, bass rattling in the hollow of this writer’s jaw and Adams tapping an eerie psychedelic solo while doing his knock-kneed, casually careless dance on his side of the stage.

Halfway through the set and Adams is at ease, teasingly whispering into the microphone that he feels like he’s playing in a bubble before boasting to his band, his peers, “Check this shit out, guys,” and starting them up with his guitar, all treble pop and empty echo. By the night’s end (including a four-song encore that includes “The Rescue Blues” and concludes with Heartbreaker’s defining statement, “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”), Adams’ head is up, he’s all smiles, thumbs-up and riffs rolling.

After the show, a crowd gathers outside the Paramount; Adams ducks out a side exit in a striped t-shirt and, with a friend, walks down the Second Street alley past Atomic Burrito and the Water Street parking garage. Someone from the garage hollers down to the musician, “See you tomorrow night!” Damn, Sam, I hope so.

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