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The Long Haul
By John Brodeur

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Northern Lights, June 3

‘I know a lot of you have read about me on the [Internet],” said David Ryan Adams late in Friday night’s show at Northern Lights, acknowledging his infamous status as a professional asshole. The reservations many audience members might have had going in weren’t unfounded: This is the guy who once fired his entire band (save the fiddle player) onstage; the same curmudgeonly prick who’s left threatening voicemail messages for critics who have panned his performances. So it was anybody’s guess as to what Adams would do (or who he’d start a fight with) in his Capital Region debut. Turns out all he did was show up and play.

And play.

And play some more.

When all was said and done, the alt-country-guy-turned-rocker-turned-back-again performed for about three hours with support from his fine new band, the Cardinals. And for those who flew the coop after the first set—about a third of the sizeable crowd—you missed some serious shit. Not that the doubters could be blamed for their exodus, considering a solid portion of that first set was noodly, jam-based, and just this side of self-indulgent, but when the band re-emerged for the “rock show,” it made the early lulls disappear. (Ironically, they completely ignored 2003’s Rock N Roll album.)

For the majority of the night, Adams and band focused on the recent double-disc Cold Roses. Roses is a horse pill of a record—at 18 tracks, it’s a lot to digest at first, but once it settles in, it produces a peaceful, easy feeling. The new tunes have properly earned comparisons to the Grateful Dead, so when Adams gushed about his love for the Dead on mic, it wasn’t all that surprising.

What was surprising, however, was how gracious Adams was to both his audience and fellow band members. For a guy who has been portrayed in the media as a douchebag of the highest order, he seemed mighty laid-back. At one point, he even called the crowd the “nicest audience ever.” (Bullshit for sure, but a nice gesture nonetheless.)

Perhaps the newly chilled-out persona comes from months of playing with the Cardinals: From the get-go, the five players had a palpable camaraderie that put to bed any expectations of an onstage blowup. (Granted, a knockdown drag-out fistfight would have been fun to write about, but I’ll take good music over drama any day.) Adams—looking Grizzly with long, stringy hair and full beard—even stationed himself facing stage left, helping to reinforce the intraband unity.

The Cardinals, in turn, more than held up their end of the billing. Guitarist J.P. Bowersock coaxed many a dignified, single-note lead from his hollow-body Gretsch, while bassist Catherine Popper and drummer Brad Pemberton easily navigated their leader’s whimsy while backing him with some beautiful harmonies. They opened with several from Cold Roses, including the unshakeable single “Let It Ride.” Adams delivered some of the night’s strongest vocals during the new tune, “A Kiss Before I Go,” which also sported some very pretty steel-guitar playing. (Unfortunately, that player’s name was lost in the sound mix, which alternated between murky and brash. He was darn good, though.)

In keeping with the general mood of the evening, two of Adams’ most popular songs—“New York New York” and “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”—were dialed down to loping, resin-caked grooves from their usual manic paces. It was difficult to tell if the alterations were more in the interest of keeping things fresh for the band or for the audience, but either way, it worked.

And then, following a 90-minute set and a 20-minute break, came the aforementioned second set, during which Adams and company drew generously from a bottle of red wine, the mood now having changed from subdued to celebratory. It was as if the early stretch was merely a test to see who would be willing to go the distance—the adults had left the clubhouse and the party could finally begin.

The band took on a Sticky Fingers approach to “Magnolia Mountain,” and choogled through “Beautiful Sorta.” They invited a fan to sit onstage as they played her request, justifying the prom-like background (silver balloons against black curtains) with the genuinely pretty “When The Stars Go Blue,” and closed with the well-chosen threesome of “Harder Now That It’s Over,” “Winding Wheel,” and “Come Pick Me Up.” Pure gold. A fine performance indeed from a kinder, gentler Ryan Adams, and his wonderful new band.


“He’s not a dick, but he’s a dork.”

—a concertgoer at Northern Lights, remarking about Ryan Adams’ between-song banter

photo:Joe Putrock

Clifton Parks’ Northern Lights was the latest stop for the Latium World Tour featuring a newcomer to the Top 40 R&B scene, Natalie, a former Houston Rockets cheerleader. That’s right, Natalie, with no last name. It doesn’t exactly have the same ring as other one-named divas like Madonna or Prince, but we’ll forgive her. Hot off her May self-titled debut, Natalie is quickly rising up the charts with the help of Charles Chavez, the guy behind Latium Entertainment. Fellow Latium Entertainment performers Frankie J and Baby Bash headline the tour.








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