The Cardinals; October 5, 2008; Overture Hall
After seeing Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at the Barrymore a year ago I claimed I didn’t need to see him for another six years, and meant it. Yet here I was… picking up tickets at Will Call. Of course, I wouldn’t have been going to the show had I not won a pair of $35 tickets only a few days before. I can say without hesitation that the best way to see Ryan Adams is for free, especially when these seats were much better than the ones I would have been able to buy myself.
Since the band’s last visit they have apparently started their own religion, since I’m guessing that Cardinology (also the name of their new release) is something akin to Scientology. They certainly already have their share of believers. Every level of the theater held legions of enthusiastic fans, many of whom remained standing, and dancing, for the entire show. They also couldn’t seem to resist letting Adams know how they felt, yelling things like “I love you Ryan” during the quiet spaces between songs. Many of those professing their feelings were dudes, and I had to agree with one shouted observation, “Hey Ryan, this is weird.”
The band was billed solely as “The Cardinals,” and that seems fair, if somewhat surprising. While Adams is certainly the most recognizable one, the unit is definitely a band. They sound absolutely terrific together; the multi-part harmonies were stunning throughout the night and took advantage of the perfect sound in the Overture. Guitarist Neil Casal was behind most of the backing vocals and at one point even took over on “Freeway to the Canyon.” The rest of the set drew from Adams’ entire catalog of solo records, even including a couple from Heartbreaker which is the only one you’ll ever hear me admit to liking. Sure I would have liked to hear some of the old Whiskeytown stuff, but I would never be as stupid as that guy in the balcony to yell for any of those songs. “You’re about 11 years late for that song,” Adams scoffed, saying it sucked when he wrote it, adding “I’m not saying that just to be a prick… OK, kind of as a prick.”
Most of the conversation Adams had was with the rest of the band or into a special microphone which I’m guessing went to the sound guy. With a ring of monitors in front of him (plus one in his ear) and six amps behind him, I’m guessing they had a lot to talk about. But if they really did have a list of songs they “traveled all this way to play” did they really need to discuss each one before they played it? Other than the two Classic Tawnies songs they did (“Let It Ride” and “A Kiss before I Go”) the lone cover of the night was also probably my favorite song. It’s probably not a coincidence that he chose Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” since not only have the Cardinals played with them on this tour, but it may be the only band better known for bad behavior than Adams.
There’s no denying that Adams can write a killer pop song, my complaint with him has always been his humorlessness, his gigantic ego and his propensity to be a dick. Luckily tonight there was more of the former and very little of the latter.