New Music Express
May 19, 2020

Ryan Adams
London Hammersmith
Lyric Theatre

PAUL McNAMEE

Ryan Adams, tousled-haired savant and former frontman of gin-soaked alt-country wide boys Whiskeytown mumbles "piss off". And then he wakes up.

For the last half-hour he has said nothing. He has pulled faces, he has lit countless cigarettes, he has scanned through notebooks, looked set to embark on whatever song was held within and then abandoned the idea. He has also delivered a handful of tunes from his solo debut ‘Heartbreaker’ – but he hasn’t uttered a word.

On his last visit to the UK, Adams’ audience banter was as much part of the show as his undeniably great songs, but tonight it takes a heckler asking "How is it up your ass?" before he becomes Ryan Adams once again.

"Nothing much to report," he says. "I’m still not getting along with my hair. We’re taking different rooms at hotels now."

Witty banter aside, Adams’ music could so easily sound tired and beat – yet another singer-songwriter with a guitar, piano and harmonica bluffing his way through counterfeit Gram Parsons country…Fortunately, he has the vocal chords of a soul great which makes you want to stare and listen.

‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and the show closing ‘Come Pick Me Up’ are jaw-droppingly good tonight. Though some of the new songs are more miss than hit, such is the depth of his back catalogue that there is no real cause for concern

And he’s young, still only 26. He really is, as a disgruntled fan who tried to choke him at an earlier show in Newcastle told him, "No Tom Waits and no Randy-fucking-Newman." For that we should give thanks.

Ryan Adams can be forgiven tonight’s crawl up his own ass because he’s obviously still finding his feet.