Ryan Adams at the Cork Opera House - 4/5
Ryan Adams has an incense roadie. Before he took to the stage a smouldering bowl was placed at the foot of his microphone stand. Six songs later and his minion returned to replace it with a fresh vessel.
It was by far the most unusual feature of a stage that also housed banks of TVs, two large stuffed toy tigers, a crystal ball and a hat stand.
These seemed more the random accessories of your average basement bedroom cum rehearsal space and the denim-clad Adams, sporting a Misfits t-shirt with a mop of hair covering his eyes, looked every inch its brattish inhabitant.
“Let’s have some fun,” he snapped by way of introduction, before launching into ‘Do You Still Love Me?’ This was the only address to the audience until thanking them an exhausting 24 songs later.
It made for quite a different experience than Adams’ last visit to the venue in 2015, when voice issues had him dismissing his band and opting for an acoustic set interspersed with loads of audience banter.
Here, for the first half dozen numbers or so the band set a furious pace, slowing things down by the time they reached the title track of the current album Prisoner.
‘When The Stars Go Blue’ was transformed into a brooding slow burner. ‘Broken Anyway’ saw Adams leave his comfort zone, and his guitar, to stand on a platform at the lip of the stage with just a microphone in hand.
The song felt as much like an ode to the Disunited States than a picking through the wreckage of a past relationship. Only if he had his guitar slung behind him could he have looked, and sounded, like Bruce Springsteen communing with his flock.
By the end, the lesson was why use incense when you have smoke machines, and as he signed off on ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’ he left the venue shrouded in dry ice, fogbound and breathless.
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