The reputation that has preceded Ryan Adams appears to be obsolete. Or dead.
Renowned for his petulance and disregard for his audience, Adams these days comes off as a charming guy who has never been happier to be performing or more comfortable in his own skin.
Monday night, almost 2,000 fans packed the Uptown Theater to see him and his four-man band, the Shining. And he gave them two hours of song and humor, much of it self-effacing.
He opened with “Gimme Something Good,” the lead song from his latest album, “Ryan Adams,” released in September. Like several of the ensuing songs, it issues a thick ’70s rock vibe, bearing traits from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Eagles, even some Jackson Browne, whom Adams resembled vocally on several tracks.
At first, Adams had little to say to the crowd. But after four or five songs, he started delivering mini-monologues and soliloquies and off-the-cuff asides, some of them apparently affected by whatever he might have indulged in before the show. (He made countless references to weed.)
He declared his deep affection for Kansas City, which felt at first like either some cheap pandering or some sweet sarcasm. But he later affirm his sincerity.
Adams is notorious for losing his patience with fans who yell and scream requests at him. This evening, he acknowledged it only twice, with aplomb. After one barrage of requests, he stepped to microphone and said, “No,” then played the next song on the set list.
Another time, he told a fan whatever song title he or she was shouting sounded like “Gold Bar,” and he proceeded to write a song on the spot called “Gold’s Bar,” about a Kansas City tavern next to a Gold’s Gym, where the only weights he lifted were aluminum and filled with beer. It prompted one of the loudest ovations of the night.
On a night when the sound in the Uptown was excellent, Adams and his band played it fierce and free-wheeling. It included guitarist Mike Viola, formerly of the Candy Butchers, and keyboardist Daniel Clarke, both of whom added vibrant colors and flavors to Adams’ songs, whether their style was rock, folk, country or soul.
They also bantered with Adams, whose mood was so manic that at one point he complained that nothing had gone wrong.
There were plenty of highlights: “Let It Ride,” a song he recorded with his former band, the Cardinals; “New York, New York”; an idyllic rendition of “Dear Chicago”; the one-two-three punch of “Lucky Now,” “Do I Wait” and “Oh, My Sweet Carolina,” which prompted a choir-like singalong; and “When the Summer Ends,” a torrent of high-speed pop and punk and the show’s most invigorating moment.
Adams also chided himself and apologized for the prevailing mood of the show, which was mostly down-tempo and introspective. “If I weren’t myself, I wouldn’t listen to me,” he said. “I am myself and I don’t listen to me. I listen to Slayer.”
They ended with two more songs about despair and dysfunction: a gut-punching version of “I See Monsters” and then, with accompaniment from opener Butch Walker, “Come Pick Me Up.”
At the end of that song, Adams hung on to the final chord, bringing the band back twice, as if he weren’t ready for the show to end. When it did, he bounced around and thanked the crowd effusively, affirming his earlier sentiment about Kansas City. “This was so much fun,” he said. And he was serious. And he was right.
Butch Walker: You could argue that Adams wasn’t the best songwriter on the bill or the guy with the wildest mop-top. Walker, a renowned producer and underappreciated songwriter, delivered a 30-minute set that comprised seven songs, including “Coming Home,” “Bed on Fire” and “Father’s Day,” a tribute to his late father.
Most of his set was solo, but on the last two, he was joined by several members of Adams’ band, including Adams, who played drums, wildly. “And sometimes a band shows up,” Walker deadpanned.
Gimme Something Good; Let It Ride; Stay With Me; Dirty Rain; This House Is Not for Sale; Magnolia Mountain; New York, New York; Shadows; A Kiss Before I Go; Dear Chicago; My Wrecking Ball; When the Stars Go Blue; Lucky Now; Do I Wait; Oh, My Sweet Carolina; Trouble; La Cienega Just Smiled; My Winding Wheel; Kim; When the Summer Ends; I See Monsters; Come Pick Me Up