Ryan Adams Usher Hall Review

So I just deleted an entire blog post attempting to use Google Docs, because I am the world's most inept blogger (why I attempt something new without first backing up on Word is beyond me....anyway let's start again?). Honestly sometimes though, the will is depleted!

I'll break it all down into less words, because words are just getting eaten by computers at this stage! I went to see Ryan Adams play in Edinburgh, it was fabulous. Well the gig was fabulous, the weather less so (honestly I appreciate Aberdeen more every time I go down south, it's always raining there...and snowing, and everything else it can do, in one day!).

The one and only Ryan Adams

We stayed in the Grassmarket, which I'd never done before -it's very handy for the Usher Hall, as well as Armstrong's, the most fabulous Grannie's closet vintage shop in the world. I'm still dreaming about a few dresses that alas were not in my size. Sob. Plus you get to look up and see this:

Edinburgh Castle - yes the sun is shining, we had about 10 minutes of it though honestly!

And just around the corner is Jackson Brodie's office in Case Histories, which I still kind of geeked out at even though I've been down this street plenty of times before (though I guess not since I started watching the show...)

 Anyway, the Usher Hall as a venue was pretty impressive. I didn't take any pictures though sorry! Other than of the stage, which is relatively small so I imagine the balcony seats might not be optimum for views.

Ryan Adams and The Shining

The sound was good, though I have to say compared to when I saw Adams play at the Royal Concert Hall in September of last year in Glasgow, not quite as round or full. I heard a couple of boys complaining it was too quiet at the back, but we were stood close to the stage so we could hear just fine, and weren't deafened the next day (bonus!).

Adams was in fine form, with his current backing band The Shining providing excellent support. Particularly notable was his guitar player and backing vocalist Mike Viola, a noted songwriter and producer who has played with lots of bands including The Candy Butchers, and was also the lead singing voice in the film That Thing You Do (I love weird trivia like this!). There's this one song off of Adams' new album called Shadows that just has a super slow, but pounding heavy steady drum beat throughout that I found the drumming quite impressive on -I'm no musician but it blew me away. Like any drummer can do bells and whistles, but not all drummers can keep perfect time sustained like that. The rest of the band provide a good depth of range to the various styles Adams covers in his oeuvre, with just a hint of freewheeling looseness to keep things interesting. Adams played solo acoustic on "My Winding Wheel" which was a nice change of tempo. I did miss standout track Kim a lot from the new record, which he played when we saw him in Glasgow.

Longtime fans were appeased I imagine by tracks off of Gold, Heartbreaker and Love is Hell, including La Ciniega Just Smiled, Oh My Sweet Carolina and When the Stars Go Blue (the latter two he hadn't played in Glasgow so I was particularly happy about). Adams even threw in a few Cardinals (one of his earlier bands) tunes, Let It Ride and Magnolia Mountain. His opening act Natalie Prass provided lovely backing vocals on Carolina and Come Pick Me Up, with her Emmylou Harris type register she slotted in nicely, though some in our group poo poo'ed Adams covering a Prass tune as a wasted song opportunity (cough, musicians!). Prass is a Nashville up and comer, with a beautiful high register voice and slightly retro fifties bluesiness meets Mazzy Star sty-lings that I enjoyed but found maybe a tiny bit somnolent.

In general this gig was slightly more laid back, the rockier tunes ever so slightly less amped up than they were in Glasgow, but it was still one of the best gigs I've seen. A couple of hecklers who weren't standing for Adam's renowned banter were smartly and lightly handled with good humour by Adams (and I heard possibly ejected). I'm a relatively new Adams fan, only getting into him in the past couple of years, and feel quite lucky to be getting to see him now, when he's sorted out his Meniere's disease, which caused problems with his live performances in the past.

He seems very happy with this latest musical phase, self producing his latest self titled album and getting multiple Grammy nominations, so quite right too. I read a lot of negativity online from his longtime "fans" - i.e. people who liked one album 10 years ago and say everything since is crap,etc., so it's gladdening to see a concert so well attended and full of appreciative fans not hung up on him only playing a certain era of songs. I would jump at the opportunity to see him play again, no question. Seeing great music live just gives me such a natural high, is so inspiring and makes me wish I could do it every night! (Though my feet and back would be sore, I'm an old lady I realized as we all commiserated on what was aching after three and a bit hours of standing/dancing around!).


Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
(Ryan Adams & The Cardinals cover)
Stay With Me
Dear Chicago
Dirty Rain
This House Is Not For Sale
My Winding Wheel
Magnolia Mountain
(Ryan Adams & The Cardinals cover)
New York, New York
My Wrecking Ball
Your Fool
(Natalie Prass cover)
I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say
Oh My Sweet Carolina
Everybody Knows
La Cienega Just Smiled
When the Stars Go Blue
Trapped (In a Box of Cereal)
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up


  1. It looks a very similar set list to the one he played on Saturday here in Leicester. I agree about it being quite laid back (although last time I saw him his whole set was solo acoustic, so it was rockier than that at least!). I'm always just in awe of him as a musician and songwriter when I see him live. Also, I love his banter! He didn't say a thing for the first 4 or 5 songs in Leicester and I was worried we'd miss out on his chat, but he soon warmed up. Who on earth goes to a gig and heckles the singer though?!

  2. I would love to see him do solo acoustic as well! He actually had slightly less banter at this gig than the previous one, so I don't know what the hecklers were on about - probably just had a few too many, still beyond comprehension to me though, why waste money on a concert ticket just to do that!

  3. Armstrongs is my favourite shop in the world.