04 October 2008

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals @ Auditorium Center

The curtain was down as the crowd waited for the Cardinals show to start last Saturday night. I didn't really notice it was down until it rose. I couldn't really remember the last time I was at a concert and the stage was left a mystery behind the curtain until the band took the stage. The reveal in this case was much more than I had in mind. 2 glowing blue neon roses on either side of a large cardinal symbol directly behind the drums hoisting a large gong in its belly. The gong would prove to be just for show unfortunately. A backdrop of plain white squares with a curvy finish at the top served as the palette for a well-choreographed lightshow. This is a Ryan Adams concert? I had only seen him once before (sometime between the releases of Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29), and I don't remember anything being on the stage for that show.

"We're the Cardinals, thanks for coming to the rock concert," was all Ryan said before launching into the first tune. Ok...that was kind of an odd thing to say.

But it all made sense soon enough. This WAS a rock concert. The stage set, the smoke machine constantly filling the stage with essence d'rock. And then of course the knee-buckling, back-arching, face-wrenching, neck-bobbing, guitar-raising, hair-flailing guitar jams. Chris Feinstein kept the low end in check while sporting a nice Larry Craig-esque stance, wide and low. Love when those bass players get down. Some old tunes were rocked out a little harder than usual, and the new tunes were just balls-out ragers. This new album should be pretty damn good. They tested and proved the theory that down-tempo can rock every bit as much as up-tempo.

Speaking of down-tempo, a few songs in came a cover of Oasis' Wonderwall. Not a favorite of mine, not even a song I admire. A song that I even had a hard time placing. I guessed that it was an Oasis tune and was mildly surprised to find out I was right. At any rate, point is, Ryan gave it the Cat Power treatment and it was freaking incredible. They played it very slooooowly, almost to a standstill. But it built up to a fantastic finish. It was one of those moments when you realize, this is the best this song could ever and will ever sound. It appears they're playing it at every show, check it out.

The band played a solid 90 minutes until Ryan announced, again, oddly as all heck, "We're going to break for about 5 minutes so you can get more alcohol, or soda, and then we will come back and play until curfew" Musically and visually it was a rock concert, but the stage banter needed some work. They took what turned out to be a very short break, played another 30 minutes and did not come back for an encore despite much pleading from the crowd. I am fine with no encore if you're going to play right up until the end, which they did, but it definitely left the crowd a bit disappointed. It was the exact opposite of the strategy employed by MMJ at Radio City earlier this year. MMJ played what amounted to a second set and called it an encore, Ryan played an encore and called it a second set. Whatever, I really thought the show was over after the first set so I left completely sated.

Download the previous night in Syracuse
(BTW, not often a band is willing to play Rochester AND Syracuse these days...)

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