Live review: Ryan Adams at the Temple Buell Theatre in Denver - Reverb

Live review: Ryan Adams @ the Temple Buell Theatre

Ryan Adams played the Temple Buell Theatre on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Pax-Am Records.

Ryan Adams played the Temple Buell Theatre on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Pax-Am Records.

By nature, the music of Ryan Adams is immensely personal. It begs to be listened to in the dark of night through stereo headphones, or on a car stereo during solitary drives. And while in past years Adams has hit the road with his steady backing band, the Cardinals, Saturday’s show at the Temple Buell Theatre was in line with the others of this tour cycle: solitary.

A delicate version of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” set the tone for the two-hour performance, which ran the gamut of Adams’ sprawling catalog. While songs like “If I Am A Stranger” and his version of the Oasis mega-hit “Wonderwall” felt appropriately intimate floating toward the rafters of the darkened playhouse — others, like “Let It Ride” and “Come Pick Me Up” sounded almost incomplete in the absence of a full band.

Through it all, Adams’ eccentricities took center stage, proving that the veteran singer may still struggle with performance anxiety. Often, his banter seemed sharp and quick-witted, brushing off audience requests and even poking fun at the woe-is-me nature of his work. (At one point, Adams referred to his music as “A hallmark card if it was written in disappointment.”) Mostly, though, his crowd interaction felt nervous and uncomfortable — all too often reverting to insider heavy metal and Sci-fi jokes.

In Adams’ defense, Saturday’s audience bordered on detestable. For the entirety of the performance, “fans” continually hollered song demands both real and fake, (“Freebird!”), and offered unnecessary commentary during every single song break (“Cool hair!” “You’re doing pretty well!”). The lack of decorum for a seated, acoustic show in a traditional performance hall poisoned whatever intimacy Adams offered throughout the night, though the set still reached fleeting moments of transcendent beauty.

“Ashes & Fire” and “Firecracker” were hearty and soulful, and a downtempo piano version of “New York, New York” eclipsed its studio version. Likewise, “The Rescue Blues” and “Dirty Rain” saw Adams yearning in the way fans have come to expect. Mostly, though, Saturday’s set was more affable than lonesome.

Opener Butch Walker played a 30-minute set rife with cliched lyrics and a feigned authenticity that, if nothing else, made Adams seem all the more “real.” Perhaps the one-to-one feel of Adams’ music is responsible for his crowd’s mild heckling — maybe he just comes across as too accessible to us all. Or maybe the casual atmosphere and heightened familiarity of Denver’s arts scene could use a polite “STFU” now and again.

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John Hendrickson is the managing editor of Reverb and a multimedia journalist for The Denver Post. Follow his rants on music and more on Twitter.

  • Nathan Rist

    It’s too bad that crowd was so detestable. I have had the fortune of seeing Ryan Adams perform twice, and they were both incredibly memorable. Perhaps it is this problem of the crowd that always spurs me to get to the front where I can be fully immersed in the music and do my best to ignore the rest of the people. Of course I usually have a camera in my hand which isolates me from my surroundings and connects me with the music on a more intimate level.

    Nice work as usual, John.

  • Steve Robertson

    I find this all pretty funny. Like suddenly rock and roll characters like Adams get the reverence and disciplined audience of Yo Yo Ma when they perform? He has spent a lot of years garnering a raucous  audience and a reputation and suddenly everyone is supposed to act different one night? It’s naive at best and more ego-driven rock star and rock critic/writer crap. I remember Joe Jackson yelling at his audience to be quiet when he was recording Grand Monde because he wanted a live album but no audience reaction included.  I love Adams and I love Jackson but these kinds of things are just setups for failure and disappointment for everyone involved. #fail

  • Ed

    Really?  Yelling Free Bird? In 2012?  That “joke” was old long before most of the idiots yelling it were born.

  • Greg

    Errr…a bit of hyperbole on the “Saturday’s audience bordered on detestable” comment. I was there.

    While there were the occasional stupid remarks and comments, it was pretty obvious to me that he wanted the interaction and was expecting it. You didn’t even mention perhaps one of the funniest moments regarding his response to a person shouting out “thanks for coming”. It’s nice to see his personality, awkward or not.  

    During songs, the audience was very quiet and respectful for the most part.

  • Amy

    I disagree FULL heartedly. Ryan had the audience captivated and his stage presence was solid.
    Maybe you’re just not used to performers being real and actually responding to the audience, what a
    concept?!  And last, but most importantly his vocals and melodies were superlative!! The older tunes
    he played sounded more like they should be conveyed, striped down to the simplicity of a highly talented
    artist singing from his heart. He is that good and deserves to finally be recognized as a solo artist that can
    seriously rock our world!!! Maybe you should reconsider the objective of a solo acoustic tour. Just sayin.

  • Mike Hjunt

    mr cat, you are soft as fuck

  • jeepster007

    Sounds like you took this show a bit too seriously.  This was my 7th Ryan show and I’ve seen both the good and bad.  The audience was respectful during his performance, and I think now knows that he’s ok with a bit of banter. If he’s going to to throw out songs like “Mr. Cat” and “Yellow Pants”, you don’t believe he expects a few cracks back? I enjoy the fact that the audience can draw a bit of riffing out of him. I believe he’s come to expect it from the crowd he draws, and he’s now ok with it.

  • Tyler Hughes88

    I saw him in Chicago, KC, and Denver last Saturday and I feel like this review doesn’t do him justice. I didn’t get the vibe that he was nervouse at all, that is just the nature of Ryan. I thought this tour is One of his best yet. Excluding the band and going all Acoustic is how he wanted it this time around. Let the critics write you’re fans always love you Ryan!