Review: Ryan Adams

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Sheffield City Hall

The rarefied surroundings of Sheffield City Hall have probably never hosted an evening as intimate as it did when Ryan Adams arrived in town.

The singer-songwriter, often cast as an alternative-country artist (much to his chagrin), has been touring again over the last few months after an absence of nearly three years. The prolific artist (13 albums since the new millennium) was famed for his often erratic shows when audience frustration at bizarre onstage behaviour led to sometimes ugly confrontations.

Much has been made of the fact that he is newly sober but the bottom line is that Adams finally seems at ease with playing live.

Tonight it’s like he is performing in your living room. His vocals are soft, his guitar and piano playing intricate and his banter with the audience friendly and relaxed.

“I’ve come to make you sad,” he jokes before spending two hours playing material from his lengthy and illustrious songbook. Renditions of Chains of Love and Lucky Now from his new record Ashes and Fire are spellbinding while his closing cover of Alice in Chains’ Nutshell is harrowingly wonderful.

The whole experience is powerful and overwhelming. Often compared to Neil Young and Gram Parsons, Adams is earning his seat at the table of great American songwriters with his uncommonly gifted tales of love and loss. A rare and wonderful talent.