050715 Ryan Adams/Jenny Lewis, Miami, FL

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On May 7th, 2015 I had the great pleasure of romping through Miami with m’lady, seeing the sights (including a visit to the quite impressive Dezer car collection) and enjoying a sushi dinner with our Miami friend Steve in his natural habitat.

We also saw Ryan Adams.

I’ll freely admit that I was more excited about visiting the Jackie Gleason Theater than I was to see Ryan Adams, but I was somewhat curious to check out the Indie rock bad-boy.  Lots of people are big, big fans of Ryan – including some good friends of mine – and it was certainly possible that in a live setting I might finally “get” Ryan Adams.

Though I wasn’t holding out much hope.

It says in my ticket book that Jenny Lewis opened the show.  I recollect nothing of her set, or at least little enough to make me suspect I’m inventing what memories I do have.  I recall being on the floor of the sprawling venue, with very few people taking seats in the wide plush folding bleachers that stretched out behind us.  I also recall Adams having the stage set to mimic an 80’s arcade, with two or three video games, a pinball machine and a soda dispenser scattered about.  To be honest it was quite lame, even to an olde-school arcade junkie (and former arcade employee) like me.  I know there’s only so much space for shtick in the equipment truck, but if you’re gonna go for an arcade motif you really gotta step up; I’m thinking eight to ten machines, minimum.

Clearly I’m already giving out nothing but bad vibes about this Ryan Adams fellow.  And while I’ll concede that trying to forge a career writing respectable, thoughtful music whilst sharing almost exactly the same name as an already-established soulless northern hit machine must have been hard, still, there’s no reason to be all snarky about it.  Okay, sure, he has every right to shout people down when they drunkenly yell out for Summer of ’69 at his shows, but Ryan is also well known for chastising his audiences for talking or not paying enough attention or for any number of reasons, and frankly I find that distasteful in an artist (present company excluded, of course).

Anyway, Adams came out and played a string of music that fell flat (to my ears, at least) before a crowd that felt uneasy and tense, though attentive.  Ryan did his obligatory calling out of chatty-chatterson’s in the crowd (though he annoyingly gave the overly-talkative pair next to me a pass every time) and he kept us all in line.  Except between songs.  Several people in the crowd filled those non-musical interludes with an endless and consistent string of song requests, none of which were played as far as I could tell.

At one point late in the show one exasperated fan added his voice to the cavalcade of requests by yelling what most of us were thinking: “Just play whatever you want to play, Ryan!”

And you know what Snarky Ryan did?  He singled the dude out.

“Oh, thank-you for giving me the right of free will,” he said, his voice dripping with amplified sarcasm.  “I didn’t know I needed permission to pick my own setlist!

“But wow, thanks to you I can now forge forward with a will of my own and choose the next song all by myself.  Hey, a big thanks to you, buddy!”

What a complete, total knob.

There’s was one song he played that I thought was quite good – not good enough that I remember anything about it – but c’mon, one song doesn’t give anyone the right to live life as a famous and notorious knob.  A hundred good songs doesn’t give one that right.

To be honest, I’m kind of glad this concert didn’t turn me into a fan.  I like getting turned on to good music and all, but I can live with not being a fan of Ryan Adams.  The dude’s a jerk.

I liked the theatre though, it was quite nice.  And Miami.

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