The discography of alt.country rocker Ryan Adams has quickly expanded over the past year, with three new releases – including a double album – introduced in just 9 months. Although his writing has recently run rampant, the prolific songwriter hasn’t let his studio work keep him from touring – Adams has embarked yearly (with the exception of a few blocks of cancelled shows for random ear infections, broken wrists, etc.) on extensive tours since the 2000 release of his solo debut, Heartbreaker.
With eight albums under his belt, it was only a guess as to what Adams would include on his setlist Saturday evening at Atlanta’s sold-out Tabernacle. Completely scrapping his most recent album, 29, Adams filled the two-hour set with a diverse mix of songs off the remaining seven albums, pulling heavily from Heartbreaker and 2005’s Cold Roses.
Adams and the Cardinals – bassist Catherine Popper, steel guitarist John Graboff, drummer Brad Pemberton and guitarist Neal Casal (who opened for Adams) – kicked off the night with the rollicking “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)” followed by Cold Roses’ “Beautiful Sorta.” The remainder of the first set was scattered, Adams and the Cardinals moving from the sleepy country twang of “Magnolia Mountain” and a fleshed-out, full-band version of “Dear Chicago,” to the charming “When the Stars Go Blue,” which triggered the largest audience response of the night.
Following a quick break, Adams launched into the second set, taking a seat at his piano for a solo rendition of the stark “Sylvia Plath” from 2001’s Gold. The highlight of the set was a medley consisting of “Shakedown on 9th Street,” the Grateful Dead tune “Franklin’s Tower” (a notorious Deadhead, Adams performed a total of four covers by the band over the course of the evening) and a blistering rendition of “I See Monsters,” which saw Adams and Casal strangling notes from their guitars in the spirit of mid-‘70s Crazy Horse.
After a nearly two-hour journey through his extensive catalog, Adams arrived at a lengthy encore, complete with two originals and three covers – the Grateful Dead’s “Stella Blue” and “He’s Gone,” and a rare performance of Gram Parson’s “Hickory Wind.” Paying tribute to perhaps his greatest influences, Adams’ encore left the crowd mesmerized, and possibly a little more aware of the music that has motivated the musician.
(To check out an amateur video of Adams' "Come Pick Me Up," as performed at this show, visit youtube.com.)