After being one of the lucky few Twitter followers who got to experience Ryan Adams’s free and perfectly acoustic surprise gig at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen in the Northern Quarter back in January, I couldn’t not go and see his triumphant return to Manchester’s sold-out o2 Apollo to tour his 16th album ‘Prisoner’.
Opening the night with the 1st track of said album ‘Do You Still Love Me?’, immediately the crowd gets right into it and so does Ryan, feeling the electric energy from the audience, giving it everything he’s got. With 17 years of solo material, it’s unsurprising that within just a handful of songs, Adams has revived some of his oldest stuff to a captivated, singing-along-ready crowd. Whether it’s ‘Outbound Train’ or ‘Gimme Something Good’ – Adams can throw anything at the audience tonight, and they will wilfully gobble it up and cheerfully dance and sing as much as they can.
After a couple of 80s classic rock inspired tracks, it’s goodbye to the flying V guitar and hello to most fans’ favourite accessory for Ryan: the acoustic guitar. The venue falls silent as Adams’s crystal-clear yet slightly husky vocals fill the room beautifully with his hauntingly sad & loud lyrics. This is what most of us came here to witness, it’s what brought me here after experiencing that secret acoustic gig in January.
And he does not disappoint. Now alone in the lime-light with nothing to distract the dazzled audience, he gently strums ‘Prisoner’ – title track to the album he’s here to tour. More sad and loud songs follow, like the achingly beautiful ‘When the Stars Go Blue’ and ‘Dirty Rain’, which almost feels a bit like a secret love-song to Manchester’s famous weather. Dark and moody does it – we’re Mancs after all!
The 2nd half of the set sees a handful of covers of Cardinals tracks mixed in with Ryan’s more recent material – a combo, that’s extremely well received. There’s no one left in the room not rocking out, not singing along. Everyone’s getting carried away in the heat of the moment.
As the gig comes to an end, out come the proper fan favourites: “New York, New York” leads into “Come Pick Me Up” with an epic harmonica solo, finishing everyone off with “Shakedown on 9 Street”.
So, what do I think now after having seen Ryan Adams in a proper gig setting, armed with much more than just his voice and an acoustic guitar? Well, that secret gig in January --- it was just magical. His sad and loud songs were even more haunting because of that simplistic purity --- and I would take that over this full-set gig any day.
RYAN ADAMS TOUR CONTINUES:
SEPTEMBER 15 - USHER HALL : EDINBURGH, UK
SEPTEMBER 17 - THE SAGE : GATESHEAD, UK
SEPTEMBER 19 - O2 ACADEMY : BOURNEMOUTH, UK
SEPTEMBER 21 - CORN EXCHANGE: CAMBRIDGE, UK
SEPTEMBER 22 - ROYAL ALBERT HALL : LONDON, UK
REVIEW BY: MARIA LODZINSKI