Cutting against the grain of the bucolic Santa Barbara Bowl setting, Ryan Adams, in his August 4th show, greeted his hopelessly-devoted fans with shards of resplendent rock 'n roll to kick off his best concert of many we’ve witnessed. With his band, The Shining, providing perfect support, and the stage augmented with stuffed felines, vintage arcade games and iconic vending machines, Adams delivered a career-spanning set of rousing rockers, beloved ballads, sprawling jams and quintessential cover songs. Add to that Adams’ witty repartee and every-man feel, and we were left with a summer show to remember under the blue stars at the Bowl.
Nice As Fuck (Jenny Lewis, drummer Tennessee Thomas and bassist Erika Foster) started the night well with a warmly received set of spare, electro-based songs, including the pacifistic “Guns” and the encouraging “Door,” all as propelled by the fantastic Thomas/Foster rhythm section and Jenny Lewis’ ever-magnificent vocals. Keep your eye on these talented and nice women!
Adams and The Shining opened with troublesome-rocker "Trouble," before raging through his hits "Gimme Something Good" and "New York, New York." Adams then segued into the gorgeously blue-lit and jangly "When The Stars Go Blue" followed by the sublime “Let It Ride.” Then it was back to The Replacements-like rave of “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” with its harmony-laden stops and starts. Adams then stretched out on guitar, jamming home “Cold Roses.” Throughout the night, The Shining (Daniel Clarke-keys, Mike Viola-guitar/vocals, Charlie Stavish-bass, and Freddy Bokkenheuser-drums) melded perfectly with Adams, managing to sound like the best of Petty’s Heartbreakers, Springsteen’s E Street Band and The Replacements. More rockers and hits ensued, including a rollicking “Shakedown on 9th Street,” a dead-ly “Magnolia Mountain,” and a rearranged, chugging take on fan-fave, “Dear Chicago.”
Breaking up the all-mail mien on stage, Adams then brought back to the stage Nice as Fuck’s Jenny Lewis for a crunchier take on her single “She’s Not Me” (off of her hit album “The Voyager”). Lewis would then join Adams on his much-loved “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” lending heavenly harmonies to Adams’ ever-poignant homage to his birthplace ("All the sweetest winds they blow across the south"). The sprawling and compelling “Peaceful Valley” followed, only to be out-hammered by Adams’ cover of Black Sabbath’s “Halloweenhead.”
Anyone who knows Adams’ concert history, knows that Adams has occasionally been prickly with his audience. While Adams was not above some casual castigation of crowd-members at the Bowl ("Don't poke the bear!", "Who let you out of the cellar, bro?" and “Whenever I hear someone call out for a song, I never play it again!”), Adams was thoroughly engaging and endearing at the Bowl, and more than anything it was his encouragement that carried the night ("There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything! Never! Ever! Never!").
Before kicking into the penultimate song, the newly Zeppelin-esque “I See Monsters” (its first performance by Adams in 2016), Adams told the crowd, “This is our fake last song. We run behind the amps, they give us oxygen, and shoot us full of morphine. We love you so much, buh-bye, buh-bye now, buh-bye. This is the worst possible song to end on; it’s such a bad idea and I cannot wait to do it. If there are betting people here and you’re betting on whether we are going to end this song well or not, bet against us.” Anybody so betting would have lost because “I See Monsters” was a masterful fake-end to the night. True to his word, Adams and band never left the stage and closed out the night emphatically with his anthemic “Come Pick Me Up.” Adams indeed picked us up this night and departed by musing “you’re all great sports; see you next time!” Here’s to that next time!
Check out all the show photos by Santa Barbara Bowl House Photographer, A Arthur Fisher, on our photo library.
Kim McDaniel is Editor of The Lefort Report a music blog. Find him at TheLefortReport@gmail.com.