Ryan Adams & the Shining w/ Nice As Fuck
Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
There’s something about seeing an artist on their home turf that seems to put a good concert over the edge of greatness, and for Ryan Adams‘ latest venture out at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, the proof was in the pudding. The rock veteran – I may be abusing that term, but after 15 solo albums and countless other bands and collaborations in 20 years, I’m gonna say he’s earned it early – delivered a flawless concert to a full house on a perfectly warm night in the hills.
Opening the night were Nice As Fuck, a new trio made up of frequent Ryan Adams collaborator and constant whim-chaser Jenny Lewis, Au Revoir Simone’s Erika Forster, and The Like’s Tennessee Thomas. Dressed in matching white bell-bottoms and their own band shirts topped with Army-green jackets and black berets, the threesome made quick work of a short set of uber-spare post-punk. They might lack a guitar, but they made up for it with lilting drum and bass and lyrics as straightforward as Jenny Lewis has ever managed.
After a short break, Ryan Adams and The Shining – the band he’s been playing with for a while now – take the stage and immediately break open their two-hour set with a punch, and the sound in the amphitheater is perfect. “Trouble” and “Gimme Something Good” ring clear through the evening sky, before Adams breaks out his trademark harp and addresses the crowd. “I hope you guys reserved some energy. I know you hiked over the hill to get here,” he says, noting the Griffith Park hill climb, and then delivering an extended, bluesy rendition of his classic, “New York, New York.”
The set list is packed with a non-stop lineup of hits, which has been Adams’ MO during his constant touring, but he keeps each track fresh with new inflections and killer guitar solos. For an artist as prolific as Adams has been in his approximately 20-year career, it’s a pleasure to see the connection he still clearly has to older tracks, while maintaining a sense of humor. As per usual, fans were calling out song requests, and his response of, “We may or may not have a game plan. But if you call it out we’re not gonna play it,” rang with classic Adams flair. His banter is always on point.
He lets loose on “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” hitting all the high notes, while “Cold Roses” gets a chilled out, extended bridge. On “Fix It,” Adams leans into the lyrics with importance, imbuing respect into the emotional content without treating it to preciously. He’s free to navigate it through new waters and does so. Before “Shakedown on 9th Street,” Adams jokes with the crowd about being “really excited for sad, disenfranchised songs. Personal loss, yeah!” And goes into a rambling story that involves the movie Outsiders and some very loud crickets. “As a survivor of the first time telling this story,” he finishes, “I really should never have told it again, and I regret that I did.” But I guarantee the audience doesn’t.
Crowd favorite “Magnolia Mountain” goes into a several-minute jam session, the audience swaying and singing along, before the jokes start again. “I’m thinking about getting into music. I’ve been thinking about going pro, I don’t know though,” Adams quips, to which a crowd-member shouts, “Don’t do it!” Only to get a reciprocal, “Right on, I’m sleeping on your couch,” from the artist. I’m telling you, the personality is half the fun of his shows.
Mid-tempo rocker “Stay With Me,” begs forgiveness and reconciliation with killer guitars and the throws of emotional havoc. But then – as is frequently the case these days – there is a “Sith Lord flash” issue and Adams has to ask yet another fan to turn off their camera flash. “No, don’t hide the camera. Did I embarrass you. Here, just put some black tape over it. I’m pushing this tape on you, it’s how I get you hooked. It’s not your fault, it’s my fault, my brain’s messed up.” Due to his battles with Ménière’s disease, Adams has to now constantly battle the cell phone flash bombardment at every show. “Okay, fourth wall broken,” he says after a bit, “back to the third wall, gonna pretend you’re not here. Having trouble doing it.” But there’s still plenty of material left to cover and he proceeds with vigor.
He covers Jenny Lewis’ “She’s Not Me” with Lewis joining him on stage before asking her to stay for a harmonious rendition of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” that gets plenty appreciation. “Peaceful Valley” sees the band go all out on feedback and psych-rock chords, a crazy keyboard solo in the mix, and “I See Monsters” turns into a classic-rock ballad, stretching between loud and quiet with expertise. “This is our fake last song,” says Adams before “This House is Not For Sale” and, true to form, he knocks encore “Come Pick Me Up” out of the literal park.
Ryan Adams Set List
Gimme Something Good
New York, New York
When The Stars Go Blue
Let It Ride
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Shakedown on 9th Street
Stay With Me
She’s Not Me (Jenny Lewis cover, with Jenny Lewis)
Oh My Sweet Carolina (with Jenny Lewis)
I See Monsters
This House Is Not For Sale
Come Pick Me Up
Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini
Ryan Adams & the Shining
Nice As Fuck