In the fall, Ryan Adams scheduled a stint of dates in the western part of the country in support of 2011’s critically acclaimed Ashes and Fire. Selected venues were small, quaint rooms and, as a result, tickets were nearly impossible to attain through every-man channels. The day of show, my brother and I decided to visit the venue early to scout the situation and thank god we did. The space was so loose we were able to calmly walk backstage and settle in behind the soundboard. Right then, opening act Jason Isbell, of Drive-by-Truckers fame, was mid-soundcheck tearing through excellent, unfamiliar tunes. As we stood and listened for awhile and marveled in the situation we found ourselves, Ryan Adams walked past with a small entourage and my brother couldn’t help himself. He accosted him. Cover blown, we headed toward the entrance hall and, just at that moment, the box office window rolled open. There were a limited number of tickets available, 7th row center. It turned out to be our very lucky day.
Ryan Adams’ solo show is beautiful, yes. But also kind of a bummer. To hear him sit on a stool with a guitar in a hushed atmosphere is a first-rate, depressing experience. He’s at his best reflecting on the human condition and the constant threat of lonlieness, the subjects of most his songs. I’d previously seen him perform with the now disbanded Cardinals and it was rocking and fantastic. But stripped-down, the songs are far more personal, poignant, and haunting. Rarely have I been in attendance of a show as revealing or engaging. It’s also worth pointing out that, between heart-wrenching tunes, Ryan Adams was as relaxed and funny as he could be. I can only speculate that sobriety and regular sex with Mandy Moore have done wonders for his infamously erratic and often cranky disposition. I imagine a thing like that could turn a guy around.
During the encore, I snuck up to the stage, propped my phone up so the iPhone speaker kissed the speaker on stage, and used the voice memo application to record. The following day I reformatted the tracks “Come Pick Me Up” and “Danko/Manuel” into MP3s and hosted to tindeck.com. Just this week, I was futzing around online and discovered somebody had downloaded the recordings and posted to YouTube. I was surprised by the quality of the recordings at the time and it appears the YouTube community agrees. Here are the two final tunes of 10.17.11. The Danko/Manuel sung by Jason Isbell is particularly breathtaking. Enjoy.