TVD Live: Ryan Adams at the Strathmore, 1/24

Joan Jett said it long before I did, but it is a phrase that is worth repeating: I love rock ‘n’ roll. Thus, I spend a fair amount of my free time in cramped clubs and bars watching guys and gals rock out as they sing, scream, sweat, swear, spit, and swig beers on-stage.

Although these “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” shows are nearly a guarantee of a good time, the most expressive and personal performances are often stripped down to just a musician, a spotlight, and his acoustic guitar. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of experiencing such a performance by Ryan Adams at the Strathmore in Bethesda.

The Strathmore auditorium is so large I had to squint to properly see Ryan and his guitar handiwork, but the sound quality within those spacious wooden walls was so well done, I could tell each audience member felt like Adams was playing directly to him or her for their own private show.

With Ryan’s somber, slow songs making the only sounds in the room, the atmosphere could have easily turned to a boring or even depressing one, but Ryan kept things light-hearted with self-degrading quips between songs, saying things like, “If we all leave here depressed, and not just because of my haircut, I will consider tonight a success!”

However, I think myself and the other Ryan Adams fans in that audience considered the night a success based on how many excellent songs he played. From the title track off his latest record Ashes and Fire, to a brief stint on the piano for a touching rendition of the song “New York, New York” from way back in 2001, Adams was spot-on with every piece he chose.

But after some leering and jeering from anxious fans requesting Ryan’s most well-known songs and tracks from projects with his bands Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Adams broke into an impromptu jam and swiftly strummed his guitar as he sang, “I’ve got a plan! Not that there’s anything wrong with the guy yelling out ‘Whiskeytown!’ I guess he’s gotta leave early!”

By the end of the set though, Adams had not only played “16 Days” by Whiskeytown, but “Come Pick Me Up,” and, most surprising, his well-known cover of “Wonderwall” by Oasis. And once the craving for these songs had been satisfied, the night was ended on a light-hearted note with a return of opening act Jason Isbell to the stage. He and Adams performed a few twangy duets and jokingly gazed into each other’s eyes as they closed the show with a cover of Alabama’s “Love in the First Degree.”

After that, it would have been hard for anyone to not leave that auditorium smiling.

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  • sam

    “a few twangy duets”????? c’mon man, do your homework. Danko Manuel is an awesome Isbell song from his days with the Drive By Truckers.

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