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Ryan Adams Goes in for the Long Haul at the Lyric, Dec. 4

December 8, 2011

Ryan Adams is one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation, and as such his show Sunday night at the Modell Center for the Performing Arts (aka the  Lyric) was an impressive 27-song one-man marathon featuring Adams’ solo work, plus pieces from past bands Whiskeytown and the Cardinals and a Bob Mould cover.

Opener Jessica Lea Mayfield joins Adams for the entirety of his brief tour, and anyone who likes what Adams has to give will enjoy spending a set in Mayfield’s folkie world. A young blond pixie of a guitar player, Mayfield’s bleeding heart lyrics were accented by a slight country twang, and while the songs themselves blend together in retrospect, too similar in tone to leave any individual impression, her sound was a suitable complement to Adams’ show.

If nothing else, you can’t deny that Adams has stamina. Over a two-hour set, the singer/songwriter played two guitars, harmonica, and piano, filling the gorgeous stage at the Lyric with equipment befitting a band and managing it all on his own. His current emo-kid haircut belies his 37 years and the maturity behind his voice. But of course, none of that would shock an Adams fan. He’s known for that soulful croon, and Sunday’s show didn’t disappoint.

What was pleasantly surprising was his geniality, goofing off between songs and bantering with members of the audience, surely a benefit of his finally achieved sobriety. And the goofballery was a welcome reprieve from what sometimes became a bit of a downer, one heartbreaking ballad after another, which, coupled with Mayfield’s set, made for a long night. Nowhere was the usual concert pacing of bringing the audience up and easing them back out. Adams even called his shots, with quips like, “This time I’ll play a ballad,” or, flipping through his songbook, “There’s got to be something not depressing in here.” Nope, turns out there isn’t, and it’s a testament to his stage presence and, overall, his voice that everyone left smiling anyway.

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