Ryan Adams 06/28/11
Amsterdam Concertgebouw – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Words/photos by Esther
Editors Note: Cameras were not allowed at this show. Our pal Esther was busted by security for simply having her phone out.
When An Accoustic Evening with Ryan Adams at the main hall of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw went on sale, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the best seats in the house: not front row, but eleven rows in. The acoustics in that part of the hall are outstanding. To say I was excited, is a gross understatement. Not ony would I finally get to see Ryan Adams live – he was here in 2008 but ironically, I was in the States at the time – but it would also be at one of the best classical music halls in Europe, if not the best. The fact that the building not only produces otherworldly sound but also breathes history and teeters on posh, is a nice bonus.
I’ve seen a bunch of classical concerts at the Concertgebouw (Thanks, Mom) but this is the first time I would get to experience something post-Elvis there. The hairs on my arm standing up will be pretty much a given I suspect, but how much will it alter the Adams as I know it; only through CD’s and just a few live recordings?
The Concertgebouw interior, with it’s baroque balconies, colossal organ, sharply dressed ushers and red pluche seats, simply demands the crowd to keep their cool. Which I’m very grateful for, since this will spare us from the death of any accoustic show: random requests shouted at inappropriate moments and most importantly the worst loser move you can make at any Amsterdam show and my personal pet peeve: cackle and yell out hysterically whenever there’s even the slightest reference to drug use in a song. But to my delight, everybody keeps their yap shut during To Be Young.
The respectfully quiet crowd also enables Adams to lace a good part of his songs with a heartbreaking fragility.
Especially Oh My Sweet Carolina, My Winding Wheel and the piano New York New York make the crowd hold their collective breath. With Why Do They Leave and a very slow Blue Hotel, the intensity borders on painful. In that very good way, mind you. I might even have whimpered.
And the sound? The sound is amazing. No, it’s mind blowing. No, it’s baffling. No, it’s phenomenal. No, it’s… you get the point.
The only bad thing I can say about the acoustics is that in order to keep them as stellar as they are, air conditioning is hardly possible and with the 100 degree weather, my neighbor starts to reek. But other than that? It’s perfection.
The sound is crystal clear and shoots straight through your eardrum and settles into your stomach to radiate throughout the rest of your body, without the hint of an echo left in your ear. Adams’ voice is in very good condition and his deliberate change in timing on his instrument (guitar, harmonica and piano) leave you just uncomfortable enough to not feel like the evening flattens out under the mellowness of it all.
This being my only Ryan Adams show to date, I wasn’t expecting the evening not only to bring great music, but also comedic entertainment. Mr. Adams accuses his guitar of sounding off due to it hanging out at the bar all night long (he tunes the thing end-less-ly throughout the show), dedicates random songs to his man Patrick Swayze in his Roadhouse up in the sky, changes his hairstyle to Ghostbusters’ Terror Dog Zuul for Bartering lines and puts people in their place who dare to attempt to tape (parts of) the show in an eery “I see dead people” voice. My favorite ‘Ryan Speak’ is when he wonders what it would be like if Kiss played at this venue.
I’m sensing that the majority of the audience consists of, let’s say, hardcore fans and as the evening progresses and the number of Heartbreaker songs wins out over his better known repertoire, they make themselves better heard. I could have done without the clapping three notes into each song (so you immediately recognize the song – you’re so awesome!) and the laughter which gets more exaggerated with each anecdote. A shy Ryan Adams keeps everybody in check with a simple shake of his mostly downturned head when necessary, though.
Come Pick Me Up closes the set and segues into an immediate standing ovation, which I suspect has a lot to do with I See Monsters which he played two songs earlier – the only time during the evening people really lost the struggle to contain their excitement.
Adams takes his time getting back on stage for the encore, and tells us that due to the Concertgebouw curfew, he will only play two more songs. The encore still takes up well over 20 minutes, because “(…) I will play the two longest songs I have and I will play them very, very slow.” Which is the only thing I could have done without this evening. In this case, I’d rather be gripped by the throat with a two minute song than lulled into a mind drift with 10 minutes of Strawberry Wine. In defense, it’s not exactly my favorite song. Which is probably a faux-pas. My apologies.
However, the night as a whole keeps me floating. Adams’ charisma and more importantly music, intensity and skill leave me happy and content. The Concertgebouw is a fierce contributor to the night’s success. Accoustic shows in muffling ‘pop’ venues won’t ever do again.
1. Oh My Sweet Carolina
2. Blue Hotel
3. Winding Wheel
4. Why Do They Leave
5. Everybody Knows
6. If I Am A Stranger
7. To Be Young
8. Sweet Lil Gal
9. Carolina Rain
10. The Rescue Blues
12. Let It Ride
13. PLease Do Not Let Me Go
14. Bartering Lines
15. New York New York
16. I See Monsters
18. Come Pick Me Up
20. Strawberry Wine