Ryan Adams

Photos by Megan Moss

Photos by Megan Moss

By Leah Victoria

Artist: Ryan Adams

Date / Venue: Saturday May 20th, 2017 - Civic Theatre, Auckland

 It’s been only two years since Ryan Adams last visited our shores bringing with him his self titled album. This time down under he bears “Prisoner” his 16th studio creation.

The multiple Grammy nominated American artist who has been described by the New York Times as one of the most elegant singer songwriters of his generation makes his way back onto the Auckland stage.

The twelve track release was born amid a busy schedule during which Adams toured extensively as his 2014 album entered the U.S album chart at number 4, and he recorded both the Live at Carengie Hall and full album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. The works reflect on a painful time for Ryan as his marriage broke down, and it plays out like a classic break up soundtrack. The lyrics so sincere it kind of explains why it sounds so effortless.

It’s a freezing cold night in Auckland tonight but the warm glow of the Civic Theatre with its starry sky overhead welcomes a full house of fans waiting to welcome Ryan back.

The stage is an interesting one. There’s the American flag hung besides the keyboards with a peace sign replacing the usual 50 stars.

Clearly a cat lover kind of musician, he’s subtly placed wild felines, together with the stained glass lamp and old skool box TV’s surrounding the drums playing white noise and inter galaxy travel graphics, and stacked large amps set a homely yet other worldly scene. The star like lighting reflects and compliments the night sky decor of Aucklands Civic Theatre.

Arriving onstage dressed casually in denim he picks up a guitar, briefly says hi, and heads straight into opening track of Prisoner, Do You Still Love Me from his 2000 album Heartbreaker, and then the more recent Gimme Something Good with a speedy guitar change between each.

Met with friendly cheers and quips from the crowd, the sound was full and thunder like as Ryan backed by a full band made a start with what was going to be a really long set list.

Joined by Ben Alleman on Keyboards, Nate Lotz on drums, Charlie Stavish on bass, and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals Benny Yurco on guitar, this time a different band, previous tours saw him with The Cardinals and a solo acoustic show he played here at The Civic back in 2012. There was also a secret tambourine player hiding out behind the set who I have since been informed is the drum tech who likes to sometimes play percussion while teching, well he added a nice touch from back there!

It’s an intimate seated occasion and his audience we’re totally engaged throughout. Ryan on the otherhand interacted very little throughout the perfomance and only briefly introduced a couple of tracks here and there. Of course it didn’t take long for some clown to heckle a request for Summer of 69, a hit not of Ryan’s but Bryan Adams. Needless to say it went ignored for probably the thousandth time in his career.

Mixing it up with upbeat rocky tracks such as  Outbound Train and heartfelt ballads such as Two, he made his way through his catalogue spanning from when he first left Whiskey Town and began his solo journey in 2000 right up to date with his latest material.

His voice reminds me of occasionally of David Gray. I particularly enjoyed the more subdued songs and his touching tribute to Chris Cornell with Blackhole Sun going down well with the audience.

The set list was 23 songs long and took us almost to the 2 hour mark. When he finally exited the stage and the house lights remained dimmed, the suspense was audible as the venue waited on an encore. And they waited, and waited, and they started to practically beg for one more for over 5 mins, when the lights came on and it was clear the night was over.

Ryan Adams is headed to Australia, if you’re looking for a night jam packed with music from start to finish, he’s your guy.