Ryan Adams + Karen Elson, 02 Academy, Bournemouth, 19th September 2017

In a rare moment of chat towards the end of this show, Ryan Adams took a swipe at a previous live review where he was accused of being self-indulgent. “Man” he proclaims, “That’s like eating a dessert and then complaining that it’s sweet.” He does have a point. Although perhaps Ryan Adams’ stage presence is often closer to shoegaze indie than fist punching stadium, tonight he plays for over two hours straight through and picks from a set list that spans his entire songbook. What more he could or should do, he’d be excused for thinking.

The show opens with rockers Do You Still Love Me, To Be Young and Gimme Something Good, to a dry-iced filled stage back drop with over sized speaker stacks & old tube TV sets – more than a little nod to Neil Young methinks. This House Is Not For Sale, Two, Outbound Train and Invisible Riverside follow on, thus picking songs from many of his previous LP’s  and interspersing them amongst tracks from the most recent ‘Prisoner’ album. Songs from his releases with The Cardinals later get a look in also.

Aided with an atmospheric deep synth (think Close Encounters) and glitter ball lighting, When The Stars Go Blue is quite special.  The mellowness doesn’t last for long though and I Just Might and Am I Safe growl and clash, exorcising (in Ryan’s own words and world at least) his inner penchant for Judas Priest. The set ramps up to a close with a near impeccable coupling of New York New York and Come Pick Me Up, the latter aided excellently with additional vocals from support act Karen Elson. A truly ridiculous amount of dry ice is pumped for a finish of Shakedown On 9th Street and somewhere within the stage mist they’re done.

The 02 Academy, previously the Opera House and Grand Theatre prior to that, is a real hidden gem of a venue. It lies, pretty much unnoticed, setback within in the fading arcades and gum stained pavements of Boscombe. It deserves a mention as tonight’s gig was the best sound from Ryan Adams – with a band – that I’ve ever heard him do. At the same time I think this current band  have a confident tightness, his vocals had a clarity and Ryan himself also carried out increased guitar solo noodling duties with effect and direction (perhaps his own recently released signature guitar pedal helped).

Tonight’s gig was a really good one.  I’d gladly look forward to another helping of some self-indulgent sweet pie.

Support act Karen Elson probably would no doubt grimace at the mention that she’s a former model and the former Mrs Jack White. No doubt she’d like to escape that tag. Her recent LP Double Roses is a good one and stands on its own feet. She and her band drove the (largely) sombre ballads with some angst and intensity. Another album along with more touring and I’m sure the ‘former’ tag will be no more.

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