Ryan Adams / Butch Walker – Palace Theater

There are few artists who can write such diverse styles of music as successfully as Ryan Adams.  From his alt-country beginnings in Whiskeytown to his straight-forward album “Rock and Roll” to the Springsteen-esque self-titled album to the raw punk EP “1984,” Adams’s skill with a hook and sharp lyrics have always shown through in something that is uniquely “Ryan Adams.”  Seeing him live is a trip through all eras of his career.  But first, Butch Walker began the night off with a set of alt-country tinged rock and was eventually joined on stage by Ryan’s backing band The Shining, with none other than Ryan Adams himself on drums.

It was a perfect lead-in to Adams’s own set. His reputation as a temperamental showman has largely subsided and has been replaced by witty banter and wry humor, including an improvised song about the stained glass in the theater looking like it was from a pizza place.  Through a few annoying drunk people shouting requests and constant interruptions to the show he delivered a set that was absolutely stunning. One of the most interesting aspects was hearing unique takes on songs that were markedly different than the recorded versions.  There were three distinct highlights for me. First was hearing my favorite song “A Kiss Before I Go” with the steel guitar replaced by organ. Second, a version of “New York” that felt like a combination of the album version and the piano-only version that has been a staple of shows for a while now. Lastly was a way-slowed-down version of “Rats In The Wall” off of “1984.” It’s amazing to witness the versatility of Ryan and backing band The Shining in person and truly a highlight to 2014.

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Brian Bruemmer