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Concert Reviews:
Renewed Ryan Adams Deals A Winner At The Gem
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Since his days in Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams has been one of rock 'n' roll's wild cards -- often, due to a fierce drug habit, the Joker.

But on Wednesday (June 20) at the Gem Theatre, the North Carolina-born singer-songwriter dealt all aces.

Performing one of a handful of small-venue gigs to introduce his excellent new album, "Easy Tiger" (due out Tuesday), Adams was all about restraint and taste. Sporting a suit and shades, he sat amidst the five members of his band, the Cardinals, singing from a lyric book positioned on a music stand in front of him. The concentration, broken only by a series of gesticulations to the offstage crew member mixing the onstage monitor sound, served Adams well, as he gave an emotive, intimate performance wrapped deeply into the songs -- a show with the same revelatory impact of his 2000 performance at Ferndale's Magic Bag to promote his debut solo album, "Heartbreaker."

There were some flashes of Adams' famously irreverent temperament -- oddball references to hard rock groups Iron Maiden and Dokken, self-deprecating remarks about how his hushed between-song patter sounded like actor Nick Nolte, a reminder to fans shouting song request that "we sorta have a set list -- but I appreciate your enthusiasm." But his real focus was in delivering the 19-song set, comprised mostly of songs from "Easy Tiger" and "29," one of the three albums Adams released in 2005.

Adams and the Cardinals got things off to a gentle start with "Please Do Not Let Me Go" before picking up the pace on "Let it Ride." Most of the show floated in the mellow and midtempo range, however, with Adams' soulful vocals supported by the Cardinals' nuanced arrangements and solos by pedal steel player Jon Graboff and guitarist Neal Casal. The "Easy Tiger" songs -- which the crowd of vociferous Adams partisans seemed quite familiar with -- went over well, particularly "Halloweenhead" and "Two." Adams also reached back for older favorites such as "Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard," "My Winding Wheel," "Starlite Diner" and the Willie Nelson collaboration "Blue Hotel."

The dim, red-hued lighting suited the recital-like mood at the Gem, and the 90-minute show was well designed to roll out some fresh material and a clearly refreshed artist. Who knows which part of the deck Adams will deal from as the year goes on, but on this evening he had the hottest hand at the table.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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