Ryan Adams packed the Orpheum Theater on Tuesday, March 14, for a powerful performance that highlighted every side of the shape-shifting troubadour’s varied career. Fronting a new band and touring on the heels of a stellar new album, Adams tore through new cuts and classics with a raw emotional intensity that was mesmerizing from start to finish.
Adams set the pace for the show by kicking things off with the first song off his most recent album followed by the first song off his 2000 debut Heartbreaker. Mixing in new releases with classic tunes doesn’t always work, but Adams’s loyal fanbase had no problem staying with him. The band unleashed the first of many hard-rocking jams with the slow build of “Dirty Rain” before launching into “Prisoner,” the title track off the new album. Adams then strapped on a harmonica and acoustic guitar for a somber solo reading of “Doomsday” that silenced the capacity crowd.
Adams’s latest band, nicknamed “The Unknown Band,” consists of young guns with an undeniable chemistry. The first big jam of the night came during the epic “Peaceful Valley” as all five musicians faced off to build toward a crushing climax. A quick cover of “Wonderwall” with Adams solo was followed by the Springsteen-esque “Outbound Train.” The band then showed off their true power with a jaw-dropping “Magnolia Mountain” that harkened back to the golden days of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals.
Adams warned the crowd that he was feeling under the weather and might pass out on stage, but seemed determined to finish the show at all costs. A trio of acoustic songs (“My Winding Wheel,” “Two,” “Breakdown”) gave him a chance to take a bit of a breather and muster up the energy to push through the second half of the show. A run of classic songs culminated in the fiery “I See Monsters” followed by a subdued take on “Come Pick Me Up” complete with a fittingly mournful harmonica solo. Joking about how the pre-encore ritual of disappearing backstage for two minutes is just a waste of time, Adams instead improvised a hilarious song about a security guard standing next to the stage. The band rejoined their leader for one last rocker, the raucous “Shakedown on 9th Street,” as Adams grinned triumphantly for miraculously overcoming his sickness.
Ryan Adams has spent the past two decades penning some of the best songs in rock and roll. His songs make heartbreak communal and love universal as he speaks to the immeasurable joy and sorrow of being alive. When his band is firing on all cylinders, his words and music become greater than the sum of their parts and transcend logical explanation. Adams’s many talents were on full display at The Orpheum and made it clear that he can always count on his fans in New Orleans to push him through even the toughest of the shows. With an excellent new album and a stellar new band, it’s clear that Ryan Adams has a gift that’s only getting better with age.
Do You Still Love Me?
To Be Young (Is To Be Sad Is To Be High)
Gimme Something Good
My Winding Wheel
Stay With Me
Am I Safe?
Anything I Say to You Now
New York, New York
When the Stars Go Blue
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up
Shakedown on 9th Street