Monday, December 5, 2011

Skip Serpico's Concert Adventures - Jessica Lea Mayfield & Ryan Adams @ Lyric Opera House 12/4/11

One of the perks of going to concerts on a semi regular basis is that you end up on variety of venue mailing lists.  Sure, some of the mail is spam that you've got no use for, but occasionally it's a gem of an email.

That was the case when a couple months back I got an email from 9:30 Club informing me that Ryan Adams was going to be at the Lyric and giving me the opportunity to get my ticket in pre-sell event.

I jumped at the chance and I'm glad I did because the show sold out.

This concert marked my first time at the Lyric in over a decade.  The last time I went to a show there it was to see Dave Brubeck back in early 2001.  I had a great seat and it was a really cool concert.  I was also the youngest person there who wasn't with a parent.  But it was still a great experience.

The Lyric was a bit daunting, especially with the crowd in attendance.  Even though I knew the show was sold out, I wasn't really ready for the volume of people. It was also disorienting trying ot find my way around.

This time around, the seats weren't amazing, but they were pretty good.  I was up in the balcony with a great view of the action.  Of course the actual "sitting down" took some getting used to.   I'm used to standing up the entire time.  And having an actual assigned seat felt sort of weird.

Jessica Lea Mayfield was the concert opener.  I've been a fan of hers ever since I saw here on Letterman months ago.  I thought about going down to see her show at Ram's Head in Annapolis over the summer, but a hurricane caused the concert to be cancelled.  Which just made me even more excited to see her open for Ryan Adams.

Her acoustic set started off with "Blue Skies Again" form her most recent release Tell Me.   While she only played an eight song set, she made the most of things.  The stripped down versions of songs from her two albums proved haunting and mesmerizing.  Honestly I wouldn't mind hearing her do an acoustic version of Tell Me, either in concert or released as an album.  The renditions were quite beautiful.

Even though she was the opening act, I didn't want her to leave. She was up on the stage and while she didn't have a presence that could be described as "commanding" she did seem comfortable enough that apprehension she had wasn't readily apparent.

Her set ended with "Sleepless", which also closes out Tell Me.  Again, I can stress enough how much i wanted her to keep playing.  Honestly, I was hoping that she might play an encore.

She didn't.  The house lights went up and while some people left to get drinks or evacuate themselves, other arrived to the show fashionably late.  Like the guy sitting immediately to my left.  Joy.

Ryan Adams took the stage a little after eight-thirty and started things off with "Oh My Sweet Carolina" off of his solo debut Heartbreaker.  From there he launched into songs that spanned his entire catalogue.  Naturally, it being the Ashes & Fire tour, his most recent offering was the album most represented in the concert, though Gold was a close second, followed by Heartbreaker.

Adams even managed to squeeze some Whiskytown into the show.  And while not every album was represented, it did feature a nice cross section of his career.  His acoustic rendition of "If I Am A Stranger" was awesome as was hearing "Rescue Blues" and "New York, New York" on the piano.

Which brings up how talented Adams is.  It's one thing to hear about or be aware that he's talented.  But when you actually see him move effortlessly from playing the piano with ease to coaxing wonderful sounds from a guitar, it's remarkable.

He's also a funny and chatty guy.  Maybe it's the intimacy of an acoustic set (Ben Kweller was talkative as well) but Adams would engage the audience and enjoyed doing so.  He went on an extended riff about the song Footloose and a dissection of it's chorus.  He also noted the surreality of someone yelling from the audience and having the audience respond.  He shattered the pretense the "faux ending of the show/returning for an encore" ritual.  He was clever, charming and entertaining.

Adam's entire performance came in a just under two and a half hours, which is pretty impressive considering it was just a guy on stage alone.  You definitely get your money's worth when you go to see Ryan Adams.

Out of the concerts I've been to this year, this one ranks pretty high.  Jessica Lea Mayfield and Ryan Adams delivered on all counts and made for an incredibly memorable experience and an all around awesome show.  If they're coming to a town near you, do yourself a favor and check them out.

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