Ryan Adams
Balboa Theater, San Diego
Oct. 11, 2011

Sometimes I feel like audiences need a primer for Ryan Adams concerts. There will be no laughing, singing along out loud or clapping in time with the songs; there will be no screaming out song requests, there will be no photography, no recording devices, no checking of phone messages. You should, at a Ryan Adams show, do nothing but breathe (and not through your mouth, either). You should listen quietly, sit back and enjoy the ride.

And what a ride it is, when you do what Adams wants. “Put on your helmets,” he declared as soon as he got onstage last night. “Prepare to rock with a fury like you’ve never seen.”
Everyone laughed because in his red checked polo shirt, skinny jeans and carefully touseled, face-covering hairdo, Adams didn’t look
disheveled, exactly. But he didn’t look like a man who could put a crowd
under a spell.

Then he picked up his guitar, and opened his mouth to perform a pristine, tender rendition of “Oh My Sweet Carolina.”  And that was it. We were rocked by Mr. Adams for the rest
of the evening, and it was done so masterfully, hardly anyone minded,
really, that we were subject to his whim for two and a half hours.

The stripped down set, conducted on a stage bare except for a piano, a straight-backed chair, a side table, a few mic stands and a music stand, was made up of earlier songs, even though his ninth studio album, Ashes & Fire,was released that day on his label, Capitol/Pax-AM. “I must have been bitten by my old catalog,” Adams quipped, and indeed–HeartbreakerGold and Love Is Hell were well represented, to the delight of the swooning audience.

The 23-song set was proof of just how powerful a man, a guitar and a beautiful voice could be. Not once did Adams flub his lines, hit a wrong note or mangle a chord. And the singer-songwriter, for all his jovial stage banter, was very much aware of just how powerful his music was. He knew exactly when to turn on the pathos, when to pull a song from his gut, when to make people laugh. 

For the first few songs, Adams was jovial, making a slew of DRAyanisms. (To wit: “Here’s another summer anthem for all of you to take to the beach,” before “Dirty Rain”; or “I’ve never played at an infirmary before,” after a few audience members started coughing; or, talking about his harmonica, “The amount of spit that goes into it, sandwich particles…I can tell you I had grilled cheese yesterday.”)

Throughout the years, I’d become the Ryan Adams fan that walked on eggshells, always at the edge of my seat, always hoping no one would do anything to antagonize him so badly he would stop performing. Luckily, it wasn’t until song No. 4 that douchebags in the audience started shouting out song titles. When someone yelled out a request for what is possibly Adams’ most popular song, “Come Pick Me Up,” Adams said, “Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind…It will probably be at the end of my set, but if you have somewhere else you have to be, I’ll play it for you now.”

Instead of tantrums, it seems Adams has become better at putting people in their place. 
For example, he took off his overshirt, prompting someone in the audience to yell out “TAKE IT ALL OFF!” and “MY WIFE SAYS YOU’RE HOT!” He laughed at that, but when someone else yelled, “YOUR WIFE IS HOT!” he proceeded to launch into an uneven rendition of “Firecracker”–mostly, it seemed, to shut people up. Alas, the audience instead started clapping along to the beat, leading Adams to change the song’s tempo throughout the song til everyone stopped. The song (one of my all-time favorites) was ruined, but hey–we were now schooled again, and Adams was still in a good mood, and still playing a great set.

And if that attitude started to unravel a bit toward the end when the audience started taking more liberties with calling out requests and yelling out well-wishes, it was okay. Whenever it all seemed to overwhelm Adams, he would pull out a quirky scenario or two (Megadeth scenarios! Zombies!) for crowd control. And when he had enough, the piece de resistance: the moving, heartfelt call for love, “Come Pick Me Up.”

Random Notebook Dump: In the event that someone calls me out on talking about Ryan Adams’ banter instead of the show, let me say this: the music was–is–irrefutable. It was emotional, it was perfect, and I wished about a hundred times that night that I was the only one in the room watching him. That said, on a level of interesting, his banter was definitely on par with the music. I mean, he played a metal version of “Two.” Just how awesome is that?

Critic’s Bias: I find it unfair that God made a man as funny, cute and talented as Ryan Adams.

Overheard in the crowd: “I drove two hours for this, Ryan Adams better melt my face.”

P.S. If you want to see a drawing of opener Jason Isbell, here it is.  


Set list:

  1. Oh My Sweet Carolina
  2. Ashes & Fire
  3. If I Am a Stranger 
  4. Dirty Rain
  5. Invisible Riverside
  6. Everybody Knows
  7. Rescue Blues
  8. My Winding Wheel
  9. Why Do They Leave?
  10. Lucky Now
  11. Please Do Not Let Me Go
  12. Firecracker
  13. New York, New York (piano version)
  14. Let It Ride
  15. Blue Hotel
  16. Carolina Rain
  17. Two
  18. Two (metal version)
  19. I See Monsters
  20. Jacksonville Skyline
  21. Houses On The Hill
  22. This House Is Not For Sale
  23. Come Pick Me Up

i had a dream that i was at some kind of writer’s retreat,.. or creative retreat…or diving vacay. a band like rainer maria played. and there were dudes there. sonofa, some dude who was in a band like rainer maria, but he was pudgy, and then another one who was like blaine at project runway. and the two dudes in the band were interested in me but blaine was just interested like a drunk cokehead is interested, but the pudgy dude was REALLY interested.
and sonofa kind of got upset…and even joe vince and i did lines of coke with the rainer maria dude and joe vince scattered it all over cause he didn’t know how to do it.

and then when i got back to my room sonof had left me a bunch of roses laid flat and woven together like a mat…and on  apiece of cardboard folded above it he wrote

i love you
and it hurts me to be so cloe to you and not be able to talk to you

and then in my room sonof, blaine and rainer maria guitarist came in to talk to me
and i picked sonof to talk to
and then i woke up becuase i didn’t want my dream to be happier than real life

Art picked me up from the John Wayne airport. As we turned into Campus, then the 55, then Newport, I was struck by how much I missed Orange County. The streets were wide and clean and welcoming, how the air seemed cleaner and much more open, how everyone’s tattoos were less grungy, and people wore their clothing easily. The lights on the freeway twinkled like stars. Everything seemed romantic and bathed in SoCal air.

Seeing Amir, Art and Reza again made me feel like nothing had changed in the year and a half that I’d been away; at the Avalon, Reza talked about his new kicks. Amir was (late as usual) editing another film. Art had lost 20 pounds and grew a mustache. Chris was nowhere to be found. Shanks and the Dreamers was now a two-piece; the new songs were more Massive Attack than Sonic Youth. Drunk, we snagged tacquitos from Alfredo’s; the last time I ate there, I was with Marla and Ben, and some dude randomly gave us roses at the drive through. We ended up at La Cave, with Amir asking if I’d ever been there before. I glared at him: “I forgot you lived here,” he laughed.

Today Dennis, Annette and I had indian food. They were watching a show at the Grove, so we made plans to hang out. As usual he complained about how far Cameo was, I forgot to give him the gate code and we got lost on Jamboree. It was my bad memory at fault; I couldn’t figure out which exit came before which. I didn’t know if it seemed totally normal — familiar, business as usual — that I was in Tustin again, where my cel phone didn’t have service and exits were miles away. But it seemed like I had never left, that we were reenacting scenes that had taken place last week, last year, five years ago.

It’s the same at Tita Veekee’s house. Spending time with 14 members of my family is harder than ever; we’re in the Midwest, Eddie lives in Australia, my mom and Titale in the Philippines. But we have the same drama, the same jokes, the same chaotic craziness that just bubbles up when we’re all in one place. I saw Sarapot for the first time in more than a year; I forgot how much I missed her and we fell asleep talking on the couch. Ethan heard us cackling at 3a.m. last night. “You guys were so loud,” he said.

It’s going to be 10 more days of hanging out with my friends at places that meant a lot to me. I am totally excited, waiting to get sucked in. Five years ago I wrote Mario: “I’m taking The Longest Vacation, Ever!” Make this The Longest Vacation, Ever! Part 2.

Obviously there are more Radiohead fans in this office than you know; freelance writer/awesome dude Justin Shady isn’t one of them:

Justin1. What are your Radiohead memories?
I remember being in my college dorm in 1994 and walking past the laundry room as some kid belted out “Creep” with a gaggle of dirty girls. I hated that kid.

2. How much would you pay for downloading In Rainbows?
Nothing. I’ll wait for someone else to download it and then just burn it from them, probably Lille to be exact.

3. OK Computer or Kid A?
I always liked Kid A more, only because he had X-ray vision and he could fly.

4. What’s your most hated Radiohead song?
Probably the one where they had that video where it was all their skeletons onstage singing, like, “I will get by. I will survive.” And then the dog comes in and steals a bone out of one of their legs.

5. Three words to describe Radiohead’s music.
Better than Coldplay.

6. What do you think of Ed O’Brien’s music?
Well, I’d say “Time Warp” was my favorite song from “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Oh, wait… that was Richard O’Brien. Oh! I liked that coked-up and drunken voicemail he left his stripper girlfriend! That was by far his best work. Wait a second… that was Pat O’Brien. Let’s see… I have a friend in L.A. named Shawn O’Brien, and that red-headed guy on late at night is Conan O’Brien. Nope, doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry.

7. If you were given the chance to sing a Radiohead song with the whole band backing you up (Thom Yorke doing his crazy dancing in the sidelines), what would it be?
Does it have to be a Radiohead song? Can it be a Thom Yorke song instead? If so, I’d have to say “Rabbit In Your Headlights” that he did with UNKLE. If not, I’ll say “Roll Out The Barrell.”

8. What would be a better band name for Radiohead?
Television Face.

9. Ok, fine, what’s your top 3 Radiohead songs?
Damn! That’s hard! So many to choose from! Okay, first, it’d be that song that Tom Cruise plays when he wakes up and, like, all of Manhattan is empty! And he’s running and running and running in Times Square, and it’s totally void of all humanity! That was crazy! Yeah, that’d be the first one. And the other two… I don’t know. Like, “Creep” and… I think those are the only two I can remember right now. Oh, those two, and their cover of Tom Jones’ version of Prince’s version of “Kiss.”

10. Ok, fine, your favourite Radiohead line.
I refuse to answer this because you spelled “favorite” in a dumb way.

Justin Shady


Ahem, Justin Shady.

Aside from being my favourite subject of all time, Maritime’s Davey Von Bohlen is a Radiohead fan too! Yay.

1. What are your Radiohead memories?
Listening to “The Bends” on cassette, thinking of how this band was going to be the next Led Zeppelin.

2. How much would you pay for downloading “In Rainbows?”
$12-15. It’s a fair price.

3. OK Computer or Kid A?
“OK Computer”

4. What’s your most hated Radiohead song?
Don’t think I hate any Radiohead.

5. Three words to describe Radiohead’s music.
Not Zeppelin anymore

6. What do you think of Ed O’Brien’s music?
Like solo, I don’t know about it.

7. If you were given the chance to sing a Radiohead song with the whole band backing you up (Thom Yorke doing his crazy dancing in the sidelines), what would it be?
“Killer Cars”

8. What would be a better band name for Radiohead?
Thats a great name.

9. Ok, fine, what’s your top 3 Radiohead songs?
“Killer Cars.” “The Trickster.” “The Bends.”

10. Ok, fine, your favourite Radiohead line.
“Babies got the bends, oh no” from “The Bends.”

Obviously there are more Radiohead fans in this office than you know; our editorial assistant and in-house multi-instrumentalist Adam Lovinus sent me his replies:

Justin1. What are your Radiohead memories?
Seeing them for the first time at Grant Park in Chicago, the summer 2001 “Amnesiac” tour, and being utterly amazed at the way the band replicated their electro-beat material live, and how the radiantly the lights shone against the Chicago skyline as the sun set behind the buildings, thinking “Wow, this is the Pink Floyd of my generation.”

2. How much would you pay for downloading In Rainbows?

3. OK Computer or Kid A?
Both great albums; “OK Computer” got me into Radiohead, “Kid A” blew my mind and elevated them into my top-tier.

4. What’s your most hated Radiohead song?
Never been a fan of “High and Dry” on “The Bends” record. “Creep” got old for awhile in college, but I can dig it again.

5. Three words to describe Radiohead’s music.
Paranoid Psychedelic Prog-rock

6. What do you think of Ed O’Brien’s music?
He’s a truly underrated rhythm guitarist; his harmonic texturing and melodic counterpoints are way smarter than most people realize. Not familiar with his solo work.

7. If you were given the chance to sing a Radiohead song with the whole band backing you up (Thom Yorke doing his crazy dancing in the sidelines), what would it be?
Tough one. Either “Subterranean Homesick Alien” or “Pyramid Song.” I like how Thom uses his voice as an instrument in these tunes.

8. What would be a better band name for Radiohead?

9. Ok, fine, what’s your top 3 Radiohead songs?
Oh, man. In no particular order: “Airbag,” “Pyramid Song,” “Just.” Three isn’t enough!

10. Ok, fine, your favourite Radiohead line.
“You do it to yourself / That’s why it really hurts.”

the national
Because I’ve been listening to the National in my car non-stop for the past few weeks, I started thinking about what songs I really love to put on when I’m behind the wheel, and what music has actually informed my vehicular motion through the years.

Rock Lobster – B-52s

I was 6, driving through tunnels and mountains to the hot springs of Abra. My dad alternated between The Police’s Sonyatta Regatta and this B-52’s album. He and my mom fought intermittently, and every time I put my thumb in my mouth, my nanny would scare me and say the Supsup (thumbsuck) monster was going to get me.

I Know You Love Me – Smoking Popes

My millenium boyfriend, Ibba, did a lot of driving before he got totally into motorcycles. He had one of those pimped up cars with a pimped up car stereo because he was a politician, had rich parents and he didn’t really (have to) work. Basically he chauffered me to and from dates and gigs and other things I wanted to do with my life. I fought with him all the time and he would always play the Smoking Popes to make me feel guilty. I always felt trapped.

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths

When I first moved to California i didn’t really have a car, and Mark, my bandmate, would pick me up so we could go to band practice. I was also living with my aunt and grandmother in this really quiet gated community with gigantic houses. Everything closed at 10 p.m., except for bars, which closed at 2 a.m. I was totally not used to it, having lived in giant party city Manila and was just in Hong Kong and Seoul before Orange County. My big dream at the time was to drive really fast and scream at the top of my lungs through Tustin Ranch Road, and Barranca, and Newport. “Driving in your car, I never never want to go home, Because I havent got one Anymore” never meant so much to me before then.

Lorge – El Ten Eleven

This also reminds me of working in Costa Mesa and driving to work in my rinky dink Toyota Corolla. I didn’t have an iPod, I had a CD player, so to protect my CDs I would burn CDs onto blanks so I could toss those around in my car. This was a band introduced to me by my druggie ex, so there are many memories of driving around getting prescriptions filled and stuff too.

Killing an Arab – The Cure

When my grandfather ran for political office in his island province my mom put the whole family in our big falling-apart Japanese van and brought us to the countryside where paved roads would end abruptly into the beach or dissolve into cracked slabs. That van broke down on us so many times, but I had a tiny version of a boombox, a portable tape player, where we played The Cure and The Indigo Girls, and the Beatles as well. I finished Vikram Seth’s 800-tome “A Suitable Boy” that summer. I wish I started reading Proust then.

Is That All There Is – PJ Harvey and Fugee-la by the Fugees.

Indonesia, 10 years ago. A bus trip from Yogyakarta to Bali. To drown out my dad’s snores I had the volume all the way up to 11. Everytime I think of Indonesia I sing, ‘ready or not, here i come, you can’t hide.”

Regret – New Order

Manitto was a hothead, my freshman college blockmate who made it his duty to drive me to and from school because my house was on the way. He also taught me to drive. My task as a passenger in his car was to press the rewind button on the New Order tape so he could have that song on repeat. That, and SWV’s “Human Nature” cover, Cathy Dennis’ “Too Many Walls,” and the B-52’s “Roam.”

On Sundays, when he didn’t want to go through College Military Training, he would wake up at 6 a.m., tell his father he was going to school, and have breakfast in my house. I was never awake at this time, of course, but the maids would fry him eggs and corned beef, and he would sit in my 103 year-old grandmother’s room and talk to her about giant shrimp hiding in her closet til I woke up.

fire island, ak – The Long Winters

Maybe ithe band name was the inadvertent herald for the way I felt about Wisconsin when I moved. But for some reason, everytime I wanted to think about Los Angeles while getting lost in Milwaukee, I would put this album on. It made me think of the Miracle Mile, the LACMA, Sunset Blvd., driving, driving, driving to no end.