Sad and Loud, Ryan Adams Live

Thomas Athey reports on an eventful show at The Sage

‘Sad and loud’ blared the merchandise. A very well-chosen slogan. In a single sentence it sums up all that Ryan Adams is about. The topic, invariably, is his inner sadness and pain. As he reminded us before launching into another song “this one is about me being a miserable bastard, just like all the rest.” He isn’t one for holding back either. The show was certainly ‘loud’, in all senses of the word. ‘I’m feeling a bit low energy tonight’ he claims. Blimey Ryan, I wouldn’t want to see you in full flow.

There was a sense that some of the audience were taken a bit off guard by this aspect of the performance. To be fair, the Sage isn’t exactly the typical venue for this kind of show. Think more violin recitals and French horns. And again, to be fair, you wouldn’t necessarily expect Adams to put on a Kiss style show from listening to his records. Mellow guitar and vocals are the backbone of most of his albums. So it’s easy to see how some less than committed fans may have been lulled in.

But for those who wanted to be there it was a stellar show. In total the performance lasted just shy of two hours, almost without letting up. There was even no pause for an encore. And as someone who finds the ritual of the band walk on and off before the last few songs pointless and annoying, this is something I greatly respect. The ending was something else as well. An overzealous use of the smoke machine left me staring down into a sea of fog for the last song. It also then proceeded to set the fire alarm off. As we hurried towards the exit under the eyes of bemused staff, I was unable to see Adams leave the stage. For all I know he might still be there.

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He would have reason to be too. Despite the length of his performance Adams barely scratched the surface of his considerable back catalogue. This is mostly down to his tireless work ethic. Since he released his first album Heartbreaker, in 2000, he has released and average of an album per year. Given this it is impressive he managed to fit in as much as he did. As expected there was highlights from his excellent latest release Prisoner. But he also found time to play classics from Gold certified album Gold and reworked tracks from his time with The Cardinals.

It would be wrong to say it was a flawless performance. Adams did make the classic mistake of referring to being in Newcastle, the pitfall of many performers at the Sage (What happened to the famed stage door reminder that they are in Gateshead?) However, on the strength of this performance Adams clearly has the potential to continue his career for the foreseeable future. Expect many more displays of being sad and loud.