During this little Live Music Louisville adventure, I’ve found myself attending shows in anticipation of sing-a-longs, or jam-sessions or some good dancing tunes. And other times I just go in with an empty mind. The recent Ryan Adams show at the Iroquois Amphitheater was one of those- I know and love his stuff and was expecting to enjoy myself, but I went in without any real, laid-out expectations. This mindset may be one I have to conscientiously try to adapt from now on, because it really made for a great night. Ryan Adams’ angst-y stories and view on existence (and love) are clearly portrayed through his music. He himself called it a “menagerie of romantic complaint” at one point in the evening, which is so much more beautifully put than my basic ass self could do. Everything, from his patch-covered jean jacket to the reminiscent arcade themed background, spoke to his style and overall vision and were things that I noticed that evening.
The more shows that I go to, the more that I realize how important the visual aspect of an artist’s complete picture is to an attendees experience. For the untrained eye, it is not something you always overtly pay attention to, but when you do, it enhances your concert encounter exponentially. Some artists, like say Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about what the visual experience will be- go check out his Instagram real quick and your mind will be blown away by his creative genius and over the top performance art pieces (why the hell is he wearing a blow up frog costume?) Others, are significantly more subtle, but just as deliberate. Ryan Adams had a back drop that included a starry landscape and some odd pillar-like pieces. I’m not entirely sure what these structures were meant for, but my eyes were certainly drawn to them and it did frame the stage nicely. And then there were the vintage arcade pieces and Dr. Pepper dispenser. (Side note: to all the arcade people, I’m sorry that I cannot name these classic items from sight!) These definitely fit with his overall style; that old school, broody, dive-y rock and roll kind of thing. But thinking about these elements together is where the whole thing gets interesting. Ryan Adams’ career has been a widely successful yet winding one. He’s done the band thing, he’s gone metal, he was married to Mandy Moore… and now he is here, with his self-titled, highly acclaimed album Ryan Adams for his fourteenth release. For me, what he is doing now is just enjoying something that has gotten him where he is and doing it for him. He likes arcade games? Put them literally on stage with him. He wants to be comfortable on stage? Wear a favorite jean jacket. If that doesn’t make you respect him as an artist and a human, I don’t know what will.
Maybe it’s because I relate to his view on reality- life, love, pursuit of other bullshit… if that doesn’t make it clear to you. But Ryan Adams’ show spoke to me the other night and sparked an interest. I know I do this on the side for fun and all entertainment is meant to be just that, but there is a lot more to it and getting to that deeper piece is pretty cool.