Ryan Adams At Newport Folk Festival, Friday, July25th, 2014, Reviewed
“It’s so weird you guys are into the acoustic guitar stuff” Ryan Adams joked on Friday during his set at the Newport Folk Festival on Friday. Yup, one of many one liners Ryan rolled out during his 90 minute set, currently streaming here at NPR.
Mr. Happy Go Lucky Adams is not a shocker any more. Back in 2011 he performed a disappointing set I called all ballads and one liners here and if his point then was this is not your big brothers Ryan, his decision to bask his Cali mellow in Carnegie Hall was very strange indeed. In 2014 at the famous fest, Adams admits “Ten years ago I was very depressed, now I am playing with sailboats in the background” and at least there is a context for Adam joviality.
There is also a better mixing of the loud and the soft in his repertoire, including three tracks off Heartbreaker, and Ryan and his first rate, though not the Cardinals, band giving it a muscular professionalism and intensity which leads Ryan all the way from new single “Gimme Something New” to biggest hit “Come Pick Me Up”, while Adams between song banter feels very self-defensive. “I know you had no choice in the line up”, he said in way of thanks.
Perhaps, but Ryan was on his game at Newport. An intense cover of Danzig’s “Mother” is just the icing on the cake of a set which missed just about all of my fave Adams songs but brought “Dirty Rain” completely to life, and finally revealing “Gimmie Something Good” as a really smart rocker. Mixing new with old so you are always a song or two away from a killer track or a set highlight.
At Carnegie Hall, Adams good humor underscored his intensity but it didn’t work, it kept diffusing the tension, but at Newport he seemed better able to move from one extreme to the other while maintaining a sort of benign self-regard. With such a huge back catalog, Adams can really pick and choose and at Newport he chose to be a classic rocker near his peak.