“May the wind blow, may the moonlight know your name.”
“To tell the truth it’s hard enough without a lover
Who you want to hide your darkness from
So they won’t let you down”
“One night at the diner over eggs
Over easy she showed me the length of her legs.”
One doesn’t necessarily need to be able to write lyrics like these ones from new and old DRA classics to be able to put on a presentation like Ryan Adams did Saturday night – but it doesn’t hurt. In truth, Ryan Adams could probably sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and make it into something spectacular and new.
Adams, or “DRA” as he calls himself on Facebook in prolific posts that come directly from him and focus mostly on metal bands, does write great songs with great lyrics and new twists on typical melodies and chord progressions that have earned him an exaggerated status as a daring artist, but most importantly he sings them live with a gut-wrenching tapping of emotional reserves and Jeff Buckley-caliber vocal control that proves the singer-not-the-song rule and far outshines his recorded performances (which are also excellent). Or, at least he did Saturday night, which is the first time I’ve seen him live.
Having spent a decent chunk of my life trying to do what DRA does, which includes sometimes standing there by yourself on stage with no high-energy bass lines or drum artillery to fill in the spaces, I can appreciate the road he must have traveled to this point. Perhaps we saw something Saturday that audiences in years past didn’t get to see – I don’t know. But I suspect the unforced and at-ease-putting easy genius with which DRA gave his songs and hilarious patter of heavy metal inside jokes and self-deprecation Saturday didn’t come easy. I came expecting an angry prima donna that I had heard often gives good shows and often does not. I had heard about refusals to perform, admonishments of audiences, and selfish behavior. But there was none of that. This was a generous outpouring of artistic talent from a very rare bird. I plan to see him every time he comes back. – jb