1. Alcohol was served in the lobby areas, but we weren't allowed to bring it into the theater. Prior to Adams' set, all the lines for booze were at least 50 people deep and not budging. Five songs in, I sneaked out of the theater for a quick pop, figuring the lines would have died down. The lines had indeed died down. Because they were no longer serving anything, not even a goddamn Coke. This no-booze policy is a theme of Adams' current Dead Sober Tour, not the result of Music Hall policies.
2. Also not allowed at the Ryan Adams show at the Music Hall last night: photographers. Thus the publicity photo above from Adams' latest, Ashes and Fire. Even if photographers had been allowed, it's unlikely that they would have been able to get a decent shot, given the lighting. It was pitch-black in the seats. The stage offered only a dark red glow, under which Adams emerged, wearing a black leather jacket, mussed-up hair, and one of those vintage black-and-white baseball-tee metal-band shirts. Joining him onstage were two guitars (both featuring the same red, white and blue, fat horizontal stripes), a piano and a chair. He sat down in the chair, took off his jacket, transferred his iPhone from his jeans pocket to his jacket pocket, and started playing "Sweet Carolina."
3. Because it was a super-intimate gig, it was also an opportunity for stupid, lame and unclever people in the crowd to yell things out and be heard by the rest of us. Things like:
4. "We love you, Ryan!"
5. "Play [popular] song!"
6. "You're putting me to sleep, Ryan." (It got uncomfortable for a couple of seconds after that one. "Excuse me?" Adams asked, looking out to where the voice came from. It's not hard to imagine Off-the-Wagon Ryan Adams throwing a fit and storming offstage, but Sober Ryan Adams handled it with relative grace. "Did you say something about cheese?" he said. "I can't hear you, I'm like half-deaf." And that pretty much neutralized things.)
7. "Thank you for your music!" Ugh, the people who say this — and same goes for the people who say "Play whatever you want!" — should be lined up behind the theater and shot execution-style. Wow, you guys are such great fans, so mature! You know what's more mature than yelling something like that? Sitting still and shutting the fuck up.
8. Adams the musician sounded pretty amazing. He bounced between the guitar and the piano for different songs and, toward the end, stood and played at stage left. His voice is well-preserved, and he knows how to work his songs in a solo setting to where you rarely miss the instrumentation from the album versions. One of my favorite Ryan Adams songs is "Winding Wheel," which I love for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of the way his vocals rise at the end. He didn't do it that way when he played it last night, but the vocal variation was gratifying in a different way. Something about this made me realize that Ryan Adams could make a living doing the intimate troubadour thing for the rest of his life.
9. He played a Whiskeytown song, "16 Days."
10. Adams improvised a song called "My Badger" after purposely misunderstanding something one of the idiots yelled out as "Play badger!" It went on for about three minutes and sounded exactly like a Ryan Adams song, except it had goofy lyrics about an admiral and a ship and Mariah Carey and whatever else popped into his head. He did three or four of these fake, improvised, comical songs, which he is pretty good at.
11. He went on at 9:15 pm sharp and played for two hours.
12. A Ryan Adams show is a solid date night, judging by the crowd.
13. My biggest regret is not getting high before this show.
14. The crowd was seated for the entire show.
15. Except for when we all stood up and clapped as Adams left the stage after "Come Pick Me Up." Then, when he returned, everybody gradually sat back down.
16. Except for this one guy in my row, and his girlfriend. As Adams was putting his guitar back over his shoulder, this guy yells out something like, "Come on everybody, stand up!" Nobody stood up. But there was no way this guy was going to sit back down, not after putting himself out there like that. So he and his poor girlfriend continued standing, defiant and alone, for the last two songs. What pride does to men.
17. I can't help it, I really like a ton of Ryan Adams' songs.
18. Sweet Carolina, Ashes and Fire, If I Am a Stranger, Dirty Rain, Winding Wheel, Sweet Lil Gal, Invisible Riverside, Everybody Knows, Rescue Blues, Firecracker, Let It Ride, Please Do Not Let Me Go, English Girls, It Takes Two, Lucky Now, Wonderwall, New York, 16 Days, Come Pick Me Up. Encore: When Will You Come Back Home?, Sweet Illusion