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Editor's Note: The original art used in this post has been removed. Please accept this pic from Ryan Adams' Facebook page.
Ryan Adams

Benaroya Hall

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Friday Night With Ryan Adams: Is This a Rock Show or a Catechism Class?

ryanadamsseattleweeklybenar.jpg
Editor's Note: The original art used in this post has been removed. Please accept this pic from Ryan Adams' Facebook page.
Ryan Adams

Benaroya Hall

Friday, October 21

When exactly did Ryan Adams achieve the exalted status of John Lennon? Excepting occasional yelps of adoration from the crowd, you could have heard a pin drop during his two-hour solo set Friday night at Benaroya, a performance that was more beatification than rock concert. The crowd hung on his every word and anecdote, quick to laugh at his smug, quirky banter, even quicker to smite those who arrived late, whispered during the set, or used their Blackberry for note-taking (true story--read on). A controlling artist known for his short and touchy fuse, Adams had them well-trained.

He had just started his set and was huddled over an acoustic guitar as my friend and I were escorted to our row. A few fans at the end groaned at having to stand up to allow us passage to our seats, and a self-righteous turd two seats away chided me for being late. I shrugged it off, pulled out my Blackberry, and began my review, taking note of the vibe (hallowed, revered), the setup (two acoustic guitars, harmonica, upright piano), and the artist (long sleeved T-shirt, shlubby jeans, smugly complacent).

I was quietly typing away as Adams began the title track off his new album Ashes & Fire, but was soon asked by the same douche who scolded my tardiness to stop "texting." A blowhard behind him chimed in, and after explaining that I was taking notes for my review--no excuse, they said--my friend, who had just flown down from Alaska to accompany me, handed me her boarding passes and a pen and I started writing in the dark. I told my haters if my tapping foot made too much noise that they should let me know.

Sitting in the dark, holding my breath, and trying not to move, I tried to grasp why the crowd was so rigidly policing all non-performance related activity within their periphery. I mean, if the glare of my LED screen is too offensive, or my whispering too distracting, something about what's happening onstage isn't really pulling them in, right? And since when does being five minutes late to a show and talking quietly mean you're out of line--is this a rock show or catechism class?

It occurred to me that Adams' fans want to preserve him in a perfect bubble of reverence for one good reason: They're groomed that way. His many canceled tours, refusals to play beloved songs, and onstage tantrums are attempts to exist in an artistic space that only includes him. His remaining loyal fans, having gone through it all, have taken up a role as some weird extension of his ego.

And THIS is what gets me. Artists that truly inspire are ones who can't help but entertain and perform with a spirit of giving. When the opposite is true and fans do all the work, you end up with the distorted scenario that went down Friday. Somewhere in between "If I Am a Stranger" and "New York, New York," a fan piped up, "I love you, Ryan!" I gagged at his reply, "You're in the right place, Honey," and shared a laugh with my girlfriend. Again, we were shushed, this time by the fan to her left. She didn't miss a beat, though, shooting back, "Would you please stop breathing so loudly through your mouth?"

We had to leave shortly after that. We were too determined to have a good time and wound up having a wild night--you know, the kind of night you only hear about in a Ryan Adams song.

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