Ryan Adams played at the London Palladium on the Wizard of Oz musicals off day on April 23rd. Blue Peter legend Janet Ellis was there and here’s her review
It was the red coats that did it. Allowed into the theatre while the Wizard takes Mondays off, another tousle-headed magician took to the stage. But the flunkeys- the regular Royal Palladium crew, tricked out in their less-than-casual red dress coats, were still on duty outside. Tearing tickets and forbidding alcohol, they stood by while bemused folk gulped down their gig beers before being allowed to sit down. Into this unrelaxed and wary auditorium, Ryan Adams crept onto the darkened stage. The lights never went up; instead a red glow (obviously the Palladium has a thing about red) suffused the stage. Kindly, you might think it a homage to Adam’s latest album title, unkindly you might just think ‘Can we see him, please?’.
Nudging forty, Adams maintains the high school dropout/poet persona that characterised and informed his early music. The songs are great- new work like ‘Chains of Love’ sits well alongside powerful and familiar songs like ‘My Winding Wheel’. He stands, alone with just a guitar, or perches with his back to us at the piano, and no one could doubt his musicianship or the soul-searching that must have gone on before he could express his thoughts and moods so well.
But there’s something missing. Whereas chaps like Decemberists Colin Meloy- or even Jeff Tweedy now he’s cheered up- include the audience both during and between songs, making each night if not special then -at the very least- different, Adam’s shoe- staring riff and disengenous ‘Here’s another miserable old thing’ style of introduction eventually made you feel like an intruder. He certainly didn’t seem to need us to be there. Oblivious to the unexpected pomp of his surroundings, unheeding the occasional shouted request, he shuffled through his set. The songs are testament to his talent, the full house a testament to his popularity. The teenage Ryan probably ignored advice to leave his room and get outside, but now he’s grown up a little, he can bask in the sunshine of his success without fearing it’ll fade him. Can we at least joke about redcoats, Ryan?