Ryan Adams
Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA

Fortunately—for us and, it seems, himself—Ryan Adams is still down to mine his own heartbreak for musical gold and lay it on the line, live in front of a sold out crowd. While he might be playing to rather large rooms, like his show at The Paramount in Seattle, Adams has a way of creating a much more intimate space through both decibels and devotion to self-awareness.

Keeping things simple with no opener, the set started with “Do You Still Love Me?,” the lead single off his latest full-length, 2016’s Prisoner, and right off the bat it was easy to see how much Adams likes to rock out. He and the “Unknown Band,” as they are called for this tour, thrashed through a handful of heavy tracks against a sea of fog, backlit by vintage TVs flickering to life, before the first emotive singalong of the night.

When the band hit “Two,” the atmosphere changed to one of captive adoration, the crowd’s voices almost louder than Adams’ in dynamic echo. And they gave him a huge cheer at the opening strains of “Dirty Rain,” probably one of his most radio-friendly pop releases, off 2011’s Ashes & Fire. From there on out, Adams’ setlist building skills were on full display as he worked through several more sentimental older tracks including the infamous “When The Stars Go Blue,” a track attributed to anyone but Adams with annoying frequency, against a stage lit with a blue night sky. He definitely knows how to work a crowd favorite, even when it might not be his best.

Halfway through the set Adams announced that “this is our last song, but the encore is gonna be so long,” and then broke into the classic, “New York, New York.” Despite the fact that he told them they’d get so much more, a good number of people actually left at this point, probably in some kind of attempt to beat the non-existant traffic. But it was their loss, as the set was really only half over.

The back half kicked off with some banter, an improv song (Adams’ specialty) about Springsteen, and a super-extended, guitar-solo-laden “Magnolia Mountain.” And then someone yelled from the crowd for them to play “Come Pick Me Up.” Adams’ response that “whoever yelled that has never been to one of my shows,” was on point. “Cause it won’t happen til the very end if it happens at all,” he continued, before noting that he wrote that epic heartbreak track in Seattle on Valentine’s Day.

He broke the mic stand on “Let it Ride,” worked in “Juli,” from his Prisoner B-Sides release, and a three-song solo acoustic detour showcased “Doomsday,” “My Winding Wheel,” and “Ashes & Fire.” And then “I feel so pleasantly cursed tonight,” he said as his guitar strap broke, “Our cup is full of unprofessionalism. I feel like I thrive on it.” It’s this endearing sarcastic nature and willingness to be self-effacing with a side of goofball that has won Adams’ the devoted fandom that keeps showing up.

And finally, he closed the night with “Come Pick Me Up.”

Ryan Adams Setlist
Do You Still Love Me?
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Gimme Something Good
Stay With Me
Dirty Rain
Fix It
When The Stars Go Blue
Outbound Train
New York, New York
(Bruce Springsteen Improv Song)
Magnolia Mountain
I See Monsters
Let It Ride
Doomsday (solo acoustic)
My Winding Wheel (solo acoustic)
Ashes & Fire (solo acoustic)
Oh My Sweet Carolina
We Disappear
Shakedown on 9th Street
Come Pick Me Up

Review and photos by Stephanie Dore

Ryan Adams