Writing an album review on an artist that you “really” appreciate is enough to give you a stress headache. You weigh the shows, albums and the amount of time you have spent receiving joy from their art against the artists themselves. Not connecting to their new music in a meaningful way is supposedly a knock on the artist rather than the perception of the reviewer… in other words, the whole process of criticism can at times seem rather… well, ass backwards.
That said if you open up a record and the artist has exceeded your expectations, you’re left with the task of tempering your enthusiasm lest you fall into the column of fan over critic.
Except this isn’t 1994 and I’m not writing for a publication. This is a blog and the pretense of professionalism can be used or tossed aside on my own whim. Besides, ‘professionalism’ and I were never all that comfortable sitting beside each other anyway.
Here I am with six pieces of 180 gram vinyl consisting of 42 songs that cover a whole career, plus a couple of bonus new songs. They begin to spin on the turntable one after the other and I’m lost. The lunch dishes remain dirty, I arrive a couple minutes late to pick up my kids from school and I miss phone calls. Instead I’m in a cozy loveseat with a blanket and road size mug of vanilla tea being reminded of just how great a storyteller Ryan Adams is. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and piano he brings down the house time and time again.
A couple years back I witnessed a similar performance and walked away thinking of magic and once in a lifetime shows. What is that old adage about lightning? Well apparently Adams has become Spidey’s old nemesis Electro and he controls that flashy shit in the sky. He just pulls the audience in and never lets go.
The biggest complaint against Adams over the years has been his inconsistent ability to connect with fans on the same level as he did with his first two records and Whiskeytown material. You would never think that a problem when he performs Live At Carnegie Hall. In fact, you don’t think at all, the music washes away thought and your left with nothing but the songs and stories of a man who over the years has learned to command an audience.
To use that tired cliché – If Adams was standing in a room full of critics, he could simply pull out Live At Carnegie Hall, smile and drop the microphone… it is that damn good!