Ryan Adams - The Albert Hall
Live Review

Ryan Adams – The Albert Hall, Manchester

Finding yourself in a church for non-conventional reasons lends itself to the weird, and that’s certainly the case in Manchester’s Albert Hall tonight, an old Wesleyan chapel in the heart of the city that the local citizens would be forgiven for any unfamiliarity they might have with it; having been closed and hidden for over four decades, the team behind Trof and The Deaf Institute have restored this ornate Grade II monolith into a purpose-built music hall. These all-stone structures always take some work to sound right and Ryan Adams, his band and his oft-called-upon sound engineer Chris took their time coaxing the acoustics to get the best of the room on this rainy Northern evening.

“It’s the weirdest thing,” remarked Adams. “It’s like someone took what our band sounds like but put it through a church and a reverb pedal that makes it so I can’t hear what any of us are doing.” Indeed.

Before the prolific, back-on-track, man of the moment Adams takes the stage, the spectral figure of Kieran Leonard darts across the boards and into the central spotlight. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a disarming height, Kieran suffers none of the sound issues with his minimal and stripped backs cuts from his record Out Of Work Astronaut to an already teeming and soon to prove oversold room. Lyrically, the songs are Dylan-esque but the melodies are closer to Lennon. It’s an intriguing listen.

In place of the usual between-bands soundtrack, ancient Transatlantic radio broadcasts spill from the PA before the Ryan Adams ensemble appears, followed by the man himself in his uniform double denim and band tee. The irony of the venue certainly isn’t lost in tonight’s choice: Slayer.

The setlist leans heavily on the eponymous new record – no bad thing – and Gimme Something Good, Trouble, Stay With Me, I Just Might, Shadows and Am I Safe all sound gigantic tonight. With a back catalogue as extensive as Ryan’s (fourteen albums in as many years, as well as the countless that have been shelved. It’ll be a hell of a box set if it ever comes out.), there’s always always going to be a special moment for somebody in the audience who hears a track they didn’t expect.

Tonight, Adams announces: “We haven’t played this in a long time, but it’s basically a Smiths ripoff so this is the appropriate place for it.” As the opening, and frankly Marr-esque, notes of Anybody Want To Take Me Home ring out, hushed tones exclaim whispered “No ways” and micro-squeals across the hall.

The later part of the set covered ground from Ryan’s Americana-tinged records with The Cardinals. The mazy, meandering Magnolia Mountain sounds triumphant within the grandiose setting, the PA output finally balanced.

After a couple of hours have passed, Adams realises he’s about to run past curfew and has more songs to play than time will allow. A one-song encore of Come Pick Me Up has the room in unison, and American songwriting’s boy wonder is on his way.

– Matt Sayward

Venue: The Albert Hall, Manchester
Support Band: Kieran Leonard

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