Gig 3: Ryan Adams / New Theatre Oxford / 26.06.11

I’ve been a fan of Ryan Adams for years – ever since a guitarist I used to play with forced me to listen to him on repeat.
I’d love to say I warmed to him immediately, but if I’m honest I just didn’t get the fuss the first few times I heard him.
However – luckily for me it suddenly all clicked and I fell in love with his music.
As they say – once bitten, forever smitten, so I’m almost ashamed it’s taken me this long to see him live.

The support, Jesse Malin opened to a sweat drenched audience.
Not only was it the hottest day yet of 2011 but the air con had packed in at the theatre. To make matters worse, the venue was plastered with sings saying ‘At the request of the artist, no drinks will be allowed into the venue.’
Even with the bottle of water I smuggled into the auditorium, I was uncomfortably  hot.
Jesse was more of a storyteller than a musician. His voice cracked like a 70’s punk and his Dead Kennedy’s style guitar work sounded feeble without the support of a full backline.
But the stories he shared between songs were hilarious. He really should’ve been a stand-up. I found myself spending most of his set wishing for the songs to finish so we could hear him speak again.
With a – far too polite to be punk – goodbye, Jesse finished his set and vacated the stage.

And so we waited, in the blistering heat, for Ryan to take to the mic.

After a little while, he walked out to a wall of applause. He looked nervous and uncomfortable.
His stage chat matched this demeanour. Every sentence felt like a struggle – like he might not get his words out or he might say something wrong or offensive.
I sat there, praying for him to start a song.
After spending what seemed like an age tuning his guitar, Ryan opened with Oh my Sweet Carolina.

I forgot about the heat.

I forgot about the 16 hour days I’d pulled at work that week.

I forgot about everything.

The man has a talent like no other. He really can move people with his voice.
He’s an incredible musician and a hugely talented songwriter.
And this gig proved that to everyone.

Every song was arranged slightly differently to the album versions.
Not in a way that made you wish for the original – but instead in a way that made you feel this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that you would never experience again.

I understand why people use camera phones at his gigs – you want to savour the moment forever.

He played a lengthy set (20 songs including the encore.)
Much longer than I expected – I almost missed my bus back to London.

Every track was as heartbreaking and beautiful as the last. The space between tracks was often broken with uneasy, rambling chat which I found myself warming too. There is something special about seeing someone that is so clearly in it for the music – not because they want or need to be the front man.

If ever you get the chance to see this guy live – you really should.
He’s not nearly as well known as he should be and is without doubt one of the most talented performers I’ve ever seen.

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