Ryan Adams at the Peabody Opera House, 1/31/12: Review, Illustrations and Setlist

samwimage01.jpg
Ryan Adams is refusing all photo pass requests on this tour, so Sam Washburn went to illustrate the show instead. More of his work appears below.
Ryan Adams | Jason Isbell
Peabody Opera House
January 31, 2012

Ryan Adams has had a troubled relationship with himself and with his music, which forms much of the the narrative of his later career. Many of his fans have held similarly ambivalent opinions about his work. It has been difficult to be invested in his many wildly divergent projects, which have been more restless than artistic. Still, many have remained hopeful.

Hopeful of what? The more recent material that Adams produced with the Cardinals, while often lacking depth, was certainly not bad. It was often very good. And the shifts and stutters of his personal life, while keeping us whispering, had little impact on the sounds coming out of our car speakers. We have always been hopeful that at some point we could again experience the intimate clarity and escape provided by the scarred romantic idealism of Adams' early career. His latest album, Ashes and Fire, seemed to indicate that he too wanted to get back to that place. The album is more settled and confident than his later work, while still recalling those early records. And if Ashes was a hint of this intent, his solo performance at the Peabody Opera House last night was an open proclamation.

When opener Jason Isbell took the stage at 8 p.m. the floor of the Peabody was only sparsely populated. The younger crowd, mostly 20- and 30-somethings, took its time settling into the seats. Some were likely still admiring the stunning lobby of the newly renovated Peabody, while others seemed uninterested in catching the opening set. Inside the auditorium, Isbell offered up a short but solid performance in spite of the mildly inattentive crowd. Just as he did when opening for John Prine at the Touhill Performing Arts Center back in December, Isbell proved himself worthy of a spot in the top tier of songwriters and performers.

samwimage03.jpg
Illustration by Sam Washburn
After a long intermission, Adams -- a slight shadow with ragged hair -- took to the dimly lit stage, settling into a chair at its center that was flanked by two acoustic guitars and a small table. Opening with "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and "Ashes & Fire," he set an even pace that would wander through his entire catalog. New songs like "Invisible Riverside" and "Lucky Now" felt perfectly at home beside more familiar favorites like "My Winding Wheel" and "Firecracker." His dry voice, often inflected with a slight vibrato, was clear and expressive, carrying much of the weight of the songs. On "Ashes & Fire," it carried a straight-ahead, Dylan-like forcefulness, while on the set closer, "Come Pick Me Up," it leapt desperately at the chorus, effectively carrying the drama of the arrangement on Heartbreaker.

At stage right sat an upright piano, and though it would be utilized on only three of the set's twenty-somethings songs, it earned its keep. Hunched at the bench, with his back to the audience and with head bowed close to the keys, Adams coaxed out inspired versions of "Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)," "Rescue Blues," and "New York, New York."

By shifting across the stage often (he also stood at a stage-left mic for a few tunes) and changing instruments, Adams kept the pace and dynamics interesting. Time between songs was filled with eager jokes that were met with even more eager laughter. He seemed more comfortable on stage last night than he has in years. Though the set was filled with well-known tunes -- many in attendance knew every word -- it never felt overly nostalgic. Instead, it was a distilled demonstration of some of Adams' most original and meaningful work, passionately delivered. It was a performance that many fans had been hoping for.

After the encore break, Adams returned to stage for a cover of the Alice in Chains song "Nutshell" and then asked Jason Isbell to join him on stage, announcing that Wednesday was Isbell's birthday. Adams interviewed Isbell, questioning him about his birthday plans and providing the most relaxed, personal moment of the show. (Isbell and his girlfriend are going to see Jeff Mangum perform in Atlanta, if you're curious.) The two ended the encore with Isbell's "Danko/Manuel" (a song originally recorded by Isbell's previous band, Drive-By Truckers) that, despite some minor technical issues with Adams' guitar, was a wonderful end to a fine performance.

Ryan Adams' fans are exceedingly devoted and passionate, despite the sometimes unsatisfying twists of his career. Last night they were rewarded. Adams' music is imbued with a romance for life that is a touch seperated from reality. Sometimes, he has chosen to abandon reality himself. Fortunately, he seems to be on different road. It's one where he is no longer chasing that fantasy, instead relying on it as a temporary escape. And that has made all the difference.

Notes, setlists and additional illustration can be found on the next page.


Location Info

Map

Peabody Opera House

14th St. and Market St., St. Louis, MO

Category: Music


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
12 comments
tommygun
tommygun

Good set but not the Ryan I am used to seeing.  Like SomebodyWhoRememberstheRose said "You could hear a pin drop in this place" Too many rules, would of liked a full band and the guys sitting in row C seat 7 in MEZZLC I remember your face

Joe
Joe

This Ryan Adams guy seems like no fun to see at all.  What's the point in putting on a show like this?

Gldngirl
Gldngirl

I had the pleasure to see Ryan Adams just a couple days before in Ann Arbor and would like to address the whiners in regards to the rules set out. Someone just before his set did puke/throw up/blew chunks because they were drinking. I had to continually cover my nose through the performance. It's also very distracting when people are constantly getting out of their seats as others have to also move to let them out. Enforcing rules shows that he cares for his fans who paid money to go and listen to him. Some of these comments here show just how selfish society has become. You want to text, use your cell, go piss every 10 min because you drank a couple beers? Stay home and listen to the cd, as you obviously shouldn't be let out of your house due to your self-absorbtion.

beautifulsorta
beautifulsorta

I had the privilege to see RA and Mr Isbell in Louisville (1.30.12) & STL (1.31.12).  Both artists were in form and incredible both nights.  The big difference was the audience and RA's interaction with it.  He told almost no stories or jokes at the STL show while in L'ville he cut up, told stories and even played 2 impromptu songs (mr cat & a thank you narrative at the end the night) and he played about 20 minutes longer.  The l'ville show had about 1000 more people and the audience was way more attentive.  By comparison the STL audience was really tense and inattentive.  In general STL just seemed really disrespectful.  I will think long and hard before attending that type of acoustic show in STL again.  The crowd was a real bummer and didn't really seem to appreciate what was happening.  

Kevin
Kevin

Jason Isbell was great.  Ryan Adams had a much stronger voice then I thought he would, I did feel like cutting my wrists at time.  If Adams is as good a artist as everyone says he should be doing a number of songs with Isbell that would be wonderful!  The biggest problems were the camera and drink Nazis.  They were taking the cameras from womens purses!  Nothing on the tickets said not to bring them, it was posted at the door.  $9.00 for a Bud? Please....Awsome venue, take care of the drink prices and I will be back in a hearbeat!  Adams is a control freak.

Egolterman
Egolterman

The opera house should be used at least somewhat for big musical productions. But the Fox and its powerful collaborators Downtown blocked that and parking. Is that not obvious? So, it is solo artists small groups. When the New Yorkers leave, the price of drinks will go down, only reasonable rules will be applied-to keep the place from being trashed. The Blues' owners are deeply in debt, and it's showing on the opera house side. Not fair.  Very few 'houses' accommodate both big productions and 'intimate' performances so well. It needs to be 'freed'.

SomebodyWhoRememberstheRose
SomebodyWhoRememberstheRose

This review is more about his career than the show itself.  No drinks were allowed in the theatre.  Adams personally requested no recording devices ( as said in the review), and also requested no one comes or goes during a song.  So if you have to get up and use the restroom, you leave when a song ends...do your thing then you are required to miss the next song and wait in the aisle til Mr. Adams has finished the next 4 minute snoozer and return to your seat.  I was almost tossed for walking to my seat during Rescue Blues (in fact I was tossed on his second to last show on his "final tour" when my girlfriend tossed a blue rose on the stage during the encore...this was also Mobile AL have you.)     Anyways, majority of the set was a bore.  New York, NY's usual up tempo jam along was reduced to a somber piano ballad.  You could hear a pin drop in this place.  The stage was so dimly lit it felt like I was wearing sunglasses the entire evening.  The highlight of the night was when Isbell came out and played with Ryan, and low and behold it was only for one song and they were done by 11:05.  The entire show should have been Adams and Isbell or they should have co-headlined.  Adams' voice and his Buck Owens' harmony guitar (two in fact) are just not enough to carry an entire set in the dimly lit Peabody especially with so many demands on the audience.  We are paying to be entertained not micro-managed during acoustic ballads.  Another negative aspect is the fact that the Peabody has not been open for very long so this was many people's first experience at the great venue being hindered by a dull performance with more rules than a bible school.  To sum it up it was my dad's first Adam's show and at the end he said it was like having a friend over who picks up your guitar and just keeps playing thinking it sounds really good when everyone at the party is tired of it and just wants him to stop.  Bring back the Cardinals Adams, Neal Casal and John Graboff are nasty twin!

Kurt
Kurt

If you are a fan of Ryan Adams and/or have seen him live before you know he can get pretty fickle when it comes to audiences at his shows. Knowing that this was going to be an acoustic show I was fully prepared for a few special requests, and it didn't change my perception of the show at all. I thought Ryan's voice sounded amazing and the setlist was a great mix of new and old tunes (as the review mentioned). Also, the dark intimate setting went right along with the show and Adams' general F U attitude. Seems like your asking for a full band atmosphere when you paid for an acoustic performance. Makes no sense.

She's in the know
She's in the know

Mr. Adams also requires all his reviews to be linked through his press rep who represents such acts as Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Beck, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney and Jack White. Just saying. :)

Tony solo
Tony solo

This is 100 percent on the money. Didn't allow drinks in the place yet he had 2 drinks on stage. Gillian Welch was way better at the Padgent simply because you could have a drink and take a pee without harassment . Btw 10 dollars for a drink at the Peabody... Geeez. Wish Ryan would have changed key during the set. I was bored out my mind half the time simply cause every song started to start the same. Nothing like sitting in the dark completely sober listening to a guy wine.

Fenzitter
Fenzitter

Kurt got it right.  I'm sure there were more than a handful of ignoramuses who hadn't a clue that RA wasn't going to be backed up by the Cardinals or prepared to adapt his material to the hootenanny they were used to before they loaded up the truck to head to Peabody.  I have seen RA the last five times in St. Loo and last night's setlist was my favorite, although I would have paid double to see a full production performance of those songs.

Ovie8
Ovie8

it's whine Tony S.  geez i wouldn't be surprised if one or both of you were sitting in front of me at the show?  did you also talk during the songs?  or fiddle with your mobile secretly?  i always have the idiots near me.  if you two did ANY research on the tour you would KNOW it was an intimate guitar / piano event. if you don't like that idea, don't buy the blimin' ticket.  also the alcohol policy and no photo issue, as well has the "symphony" like seating "rules" were standard fare. it's been that way across the country.  i suppose you lot don't visit the STL symphony either though.  us wise men had a few vodka tonics before the show and sat through the 2hr set nicely buzzed yet with no need to have to utilize the rest room (in fact ryan mocking people leaving who needed to take a pizz was actually quite comical).  seriously do people in stl ever give a good rating except for the cardinals??? (no pun intended)

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Clubs

Loading...