A Night to Remember – Ryan Adams, The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 2006

Tonight the bottle let him down.

It’s an obvious thing to say – but memory is a very funny thing. I had not just to think but also do some proper research to recall details of what was undoubtedly a night to remember. Whereas I could easily recall a huge amount of detail from 46 years ago regarding the Grateful Dead at the Alexandra Palace – boy did I have to rack my brains, do research and speak to friends just to remember where and when this particular debacle actually took place. Perhaps subconsciously I was just trying to expunge it from memory.

Adams’ star has declined markedly over recent years for other reasons. He is though, a great talent – those three Whiskeytown albums are as fine as anything in my view. However, as with so many, when you read about the man behind the art then those heart-wrung love songs become so much less. I would also say he has had a bit of a problem with quantity control, overly profligate and something of the antithesis of Leonard Cohen’s measured and slow-paced production. (though to be fair he did speed up a little in his final years).

So, I have now been able to establish it was at the Bridgewater Hall and thankfully I have found someone who was also there who posted an account that replicated what I experienced that night. I’m no musician, just a fan, so I am always inclined to reserve judgement on the basis that I am not sure I am clever enough to understand. That’s why I still persevere with Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor – too many people see something there for me to ignore those alternative views – so it would be no surprise then that for a while I sat there thinking – maybe it’s me?

Soon enough though I realised it was him not me and that my friend and his son agreed as did several justified hecklers from the audience who just wanted Adams to get on with it. I don’t know precisely what the problem was but Adams clearly was stoned or drunk – what does it matter which? It reached its nadir with some truly emetic feline strangling vocals at the piano – and at that point, we walked out.

It’s not as though we didn’t know that it could be so much better, having seen Adams previously when he delivered a great set – so he was clearly capable. I have no time for the tortured artist business and short of a death in the family, I expect people to do properly what is after all their JOB just like the rest of the world. There’s no excuse for turning up for work in an unfit state.

The ensuing scene outside the hall was both amusing and rather sad. Amusing as my normally very placid and measured friend berated a steward – who quite reasonably said that there was nothing they could do as they only represented the venue, not the promoter. More seriously though he was hugely disappointed that he had taken his son to see something of which he had great expectations – but turned out to be rubbish. You can imagine the disappointment and frustration.

But don’t just take my word for it. Stephen Fairbanks was also there and you could read his account here (worth it for a good Bill Gates story) wherein he suggests that, ‘Ryan Adams decides that whispering to guitars is way more fun than playing them’ and that the concert degenerates into, ‘drunken gibberish’. No argument here!

Thanks, Stephen – if only so that I can be sure it was not a bad dream.

There you are then. A complete waste of time and money a disappointed teenager a night to remember for all the wrong reasons (as far as I can recall it is the only gig that I have walked out of) and every reason never to bother with Adams again. I’ve never seen any sight of an apology and certainly no likelihood of a refund. But if you are reading Ryan I’d be happy to pass on my bank details.

Here’s a postscript from Wikipedia –

‘In 2007, Adams revealed that he had endured “an extended period of substance abuse” that ended in 2006. He indicated that he routinely snorted heroin mixed with Cocaine, and abused alcohol and pills. He beat his addiction with the assistance of his girlfriend at the time, Jessica Joffe, using Valium therapy and occasionally attending 12-step meetings’.

A bit late for me!

About Gordon Sharpe 86 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts

12 Comments

  1. He did exactly the same thing in Bristol on the same solo tour. Only half the audience remaining by the end and he was antagonistic towards them even then. He’s never been back to the city since.

    • In some ways that makes me feel like I’ve not gone mad – for which I am grateful – but also its a shame that others had to suffer the same.

  2. I’ve only ever walked out of two concerts; Hawkwind due to it being too loud (and my being in too close proximity to the reason for a broken teenage heart), and the Allman Brothers for being utterly disrespectful of the audience (and playing a keytar). On the upside though, the latter gig did introduce me to the r&b charms of Nine Below Zero whom I love to this day.

    Memory is indeed a funny thing. Mine tells me the show CSNY did at Wembley in 1974 was one of the best ever. Documentary evidence in the form of the bootleg tapes, the “official” Stanley Dorfman film of the show and the Nash curated live compilation from that tour from make it clear that it was a less than stellar performance, out of tune and overblown. My memory refuses to yield.

  3. I was at that 1974 gig but I was at the other end of the stadium so I’m not sure I was in a position to comment – I suspect also that we had lower expectations in those days?.

    Interesting about the Allmans – the more I read and hear about them the more I think they were not a nice bunch of people. I have to admit to nodding off at a few gigs – mainly due to tiredness and late nights but I dont ever recall thinking this is so shite that I am off. Adams wears the crown on that one

    • I think we did have lower expectations – after all it was a treat to see them at all – but what did surprise me was how poor Wembley was as a performance compared to the US leg of the tour once I began to to be able to get copies of the US shows.

  4. Funnily enough (wel it seemd strange to me) I had a conversation a good while ago about how I missed the days when speakers blew up and things were rough edged and a bit unpredictable. I’m probably weird but I miss that uncertainty of when they might come on and when they might finish and whether the bass player could be heard or not – its all so well oiled now that I dont even bother clapping for an encore – you know full well that wild horses wouldn’t stop most artists reappearing.

    That said bad sound is bad sound and Adams was beyond a joke.

    You’re right about seeing CSNY – it was a time when overseas artists still had a bit of mystique – if you will forgive the comparsion a bit like actually watching Eusebio playing in England and on the telly in my front room during the 66 world cup. A lot of that kind of magic has just gone.

  5. At the Newcastle concert an enraged fan stormed back into the venue. Luckily he was pretty good in London, Ryan that is, not the fan. The fan was probably still pissed off.

  6. Adam’s behaviour towards various women in his life is indefensible and will receive no explanation or justification from me. And I have no doubt the gig was as bad as described. But to suggest or even state that he is now a busted flush creatively seems to me to be a little unfair and arguably a conflation of two entirely different issues. While It’s obviously true he has always released too much music and quality control is erratic to put it mildly, his best records remain amongst the best in the entire genre and his latest BIG COLOURS is to my ears a significant return to form. Whether or not you listen to it for non-musical reasons is of course a personal choice but purely from a music point of view, he is still doing good and interesting work, in my opinion at least.

  7. Not quite sure where you are coming from on that one Adrian but I can only respect your view. I think I state quite clearly that he is a great talent. I regard the Whiskeytown material as his finest hour and that is my view and I stick by it. To be honest I have rather lost interest in him over the years and if you feel he is producing good stuff now then thats fine by me – I couldn’t pass an opinion.

    Which bit of the article makes you thinnk that I regard him as a busted flush?

  8. My mistake, Gordon. I’ve just read your article again, and see I misunderstood what you say in your paragraph beginning “Adam’s star has declined markedly in recent years…” My apologies – although my original comment wasn’t meant in any way as criticism of our piece, only what I took – wrongly, as it turns out – to be part of your argument. That said, although I agree with you wholeheartedly about two of the Whiskeytown albums (I’ve never been totally convinced by the third) I would add GOLD, COLD ROSES, LOVE IS HELL and (perhaps in due course) BIG COLOURS to the list. The fact that listening to Adams these days is at best an uneasy experience for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the music itself is a source of sadness and regret to his many fans and one-time admirers.

  9. No apologies necessary Adrian – we like a bit of lively debate. On your advice I listened to Big Colours this afternoon. I think I may need a few more goes before I can comment but to be honest if I didnt know it was Adams then I would not have guessed – woold it be fair to say its a bit of a departure?.

    I detect a real sadness about Adams recent history – I guess all artists ultimately have feet of clay?

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