Listening to singer-songwriter Ryan Adams uncork his vault of gems Thursday night for a last-minute solo acoustic show was like being in the dreamy fog of some sort of alt-country Shangri-La. But for the legion of fans who missed out after trying in vain to snag tickets to the sold-out concert, it must instead have felt like a cruel temptress.
It’s unfortunate too, because Adams was in rare unbridled form. Known for his oft-erratic onstage antics and sometimes misanthropic persona, the prolific showman was nothing of the sort at Denver Civic Theatre’s Su Teatro. By contrast, Adams was quirky, engaging, and perhaps most importantly, unflappable despite the over-exuberant and sometimes annoyingly restless crowd. Volleying from one vintage cut to the next, Adams gave the eager fandom his unflinching best on the opening magic of “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” From there forward, each song glistened with a mesmerizing timbre; sounding as if being played for the first time. As Adams flipped through pages of his tattered songbook, one couldn’t also help but feel as though the songs were being homecooked just for them.
Off 2005’s “Cold Roses,” perennial favorites “If I Am A Stranger” and “Let It Ride” raised the bar of expectations. Shifting to piano sporadically throughout the setlist, Adams then reworked seldom heard live takes on “New York, New York,” “Firecracker” and “Rescue Blues” — all to the awe of the listeners. The hits rolled on with “Amy,” “To Be Young,” and “Two” unfolding with crystalline precision. Oddly enough, new songs “Invisible Riverside,” “Dirty Rain” and “Lucky Now” perfectly accompanied his deep catalog as if reunited after a long vacation. But the standouts were the trademark stories of “English Girls Approximately” from 2004’s cult-treat “Love Is Hell” and “16 Days” off Whiskeytown’s “Stranger’s Almanac.”
Kris K. Coe is a freelance writer, Denver-native, and new contributor to Reverb.