All I Can Do Is Write About It: Ryan Adams @ First Avenue 12/5/01

It started with a couple of fine almost-rockers, "New York, New York" (natch) and "To Be Young," but then descended into Musicianship and moody hey-I'm-a-songwriter boring shit. I gave it a fair chance, then headed for the bar for some painkillers pronto.

Adams's band had three guitarists, on a couple of tunes they jammed. The jams were long, they were boring, they were bad. Lord were they bad, Lord was this show bad. But Adams kept plugging on though, mostly because he probably thought his shit was cool, he probably thought it rocked. He's likely convinced that he and his lackluster band is an approximate of the Stones circa '72. Poor sap. I'm sure at some point he and his band played some songs that many folks in the crowd felt were gems. I know this because I heard people cheer. But fuck was it boring. You know why it was soooo boring? Because the songs were so goddamn boring. Mindless jams, lots of quiet songs played with no spark at all, no rock, no roll. It was all so lame that I had to ask this: Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Before you accuse me of (once again) being a contrarian in light of the fast-rising Mr. Adams, I must tell you that he has charmed me, and it was rather recently. It was in the Entry in October of 2000. It was just him and an acoustic guitar, it was beautiful. He was charming (there's that word again, but it fits); he told witty self-deprecating tales between tunes. The songs were gorgeous little slices of genius. A friend of mine left that show early in the encore just so he could hear Adams's voice on his way out instead of anything else. It was special.

But tonight Adams was self-indulgent, tonight he failed. It was shitty jamming, some great-because-he-thinks-so (but not really that great) song played twice in a row, some forced "hey I've got the country vibe going" covers and lots of irritating between-songs patter.

Three guitars. Jams. Stones's influences left-and-right. All it made me think was this: Ryan Adams is no Ronnie Van Zant. And how he proved it on the stage this night. Tell you what ... once this dude writes a great rocking/working-class/on-the-edge song like "Working For MCA" or "Saturday Night Special" and then backs it up with a likewise vibe, let me know. Until then I refuse to believe the hype.

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