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Last Night: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at Verizon Wireless Theater

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Ryan Adams and the Cardinals October 18, 2007 Verizon Wireless Theater

Click here for a slideshow of crowd shots. Now with extra hatin’!

Better Than: Being confronted with the fact that Kid Rock is now an elder statesman rock star.

Download: The song about a past romantic grievance. The one about drinking is good too. Oh, and the one about heartbreak. Don’t forget that one.

As much as I would like to easily categorize last night’s Ryan Adams show as a musical concert, I would only be telling half the story. You see, it was more of a five man stand-up comedy act, interspersed with morose and somber songs about love lost.

Ryan Adams has always been lumped into the bratty rock star bin. He has a past marked with drunken tirades against audiences; bizarre Web sites, proving html coding is a privilege, not a right; an erratic, yet monstrously prolific and well-received recording output; and self-confessed addictions to various powders, pills and plants. What most casual listeners don’t realize is that Adams somehow makes all that work to his advantage. For all the drama he accumulates, the boy-man wears it like a comfortable worn-in denim jacket.

Ryan Adams has said in the past that he would gladly step aside from his solo career and tour full-time with the Cardinals. After last night’s show, he makes a helluva lot of sense. The set relied on almost all Cardinals tunes, from their 2005 debut to this past summer’s Easy Tiger. After a few songs, we all expected we were in for a very polite and staid Ryan, the one who says three words and hits the bus. But about four songs in, the whole band entered into a banter with the audience that didn’t stop all night. Adams and guitarist Neal Casal began riffing on all things, ranging from the crowd’s apparent sex breaks in the bathrooms, to the constant applause we were doling on him. If you were already aware of Adams’s past history, you pretty much chalked it up to pot and whiskey. But on closer inspection, we found he was drinking Diet Coke and eating fruit cookies. It was thrilling to see such a closed-off artist come on like late-night talk show host. Compare it to Gramps breaking out of a coma and telling fart jokes after years of lying dormant.

Adams jumped on keys for “Off Broadway,” leaning against the ivories as if he were wrenching out each note. He was extremely playful when he wanted to be, and appropriately collected when the piece required it. The band that Adams has assembled is not unlike the group Bob Dylan has aquired this past decade. Each piece fits like a five-part jigsaw puzzle, symbiotically excavating each song for unseen artifacts. If this is what jam music is going to be like for the next 30 years, with Adams at the helm, just count me in now.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I am a white male who has had a romantic interest in someone of the opposite sex. So I have an innate knowledge of the lyrical content.

Random Detail: The merch table was shilling Swatch-style watches with the Cardinals flower logo on it, so you can know exactly when that sale at the Lucky Jeans store begins.

By the way: Each time I see a show at Verizon, I feel like I am guest-starring on my own episode of “OZ.” You get yelled at and berated for walking down the wrong aisle. If you are waiting to buy merch, they tell you to hurry the hell up. I was taking pictures of the smoking throng outside, and I was told to stop. The only people working there who seem to be having a good time are the bartenders. And with beers at almost seven dollars, wouldn’t you be happy? Each time I leave the venue, I have a new boyfriend and a new shiv. – Craig Hlavaty

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