Ryan Adams at CLUB, Arlington, VA, Sunday 22 February 2007
Ryan Adams is both a perfectionist and temperamental: He has ended concerts abruptly due to perceived poor sound quality, and he's known as much for his onstage meltdowns as for his melancholy alt-country ballads. But on Tuesday night at DAR Constitution Hall, Adams showed only the best aspects of both traits.
His perfectionism was apparent from the stunning arrangements and interplay with his four-piece band, the Cardinals -- from the squealing guitar riffs on "Cold Roses" to the long instrumental lead-in to "Off Broadway," the group sounded rehearsed and precise without sounding at all formulaic.
As for Adams's volatility, he broke from his focused performance only rarely: to play sidekick to pedal steel player Jon Graboff's Rodney Dangerfield joke, to shout nonsense into a bullhorn, and most amusingly, to launch into a speedy punk-rock birthday song for his bassist. Those gags might have seemed incongruous to Adams's otherwise serious stage persona, but they provided a good comic balance to the somberness of his songs.
The Cardinals' organic, jamming style was reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and worked particularly well for the over-two-hour show. The lengthy, moody "Blue Hotel" mirrored Adams's plaintive cries of "I give up" while the swirling instrumental layers and laid-back lyrics on "Easy Plateau" were riveting and could likely have gone on for hours were it not for the hall's strict curfew.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 1 November 2007; Page C13