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July 26, 2007

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals; Berkeley, CA; 7.24.07

When I found out I'd be covering Ryan Adams, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd liked what I'd previously heard of his music, but wasn't too familiar with much of it and didn't know what the live show, or the man himself, would be like. But as most of us settled into our seats, Ryan went up and down the aisles taking song requests from fans all over the theatre, kneeling down or grabbing an empty seat nearby in order to attain eye-level with them as they shared a conversation. Watching him interact with his fans was enough to bring a smile to my face, and that smile never left the rest of the night.


(Side note: I apologize that the pictures are so terrible; for this tour, there was no pit access for photography so everyone with a photo pass had to shoot from the back of the venue, and that does not bode well when you're using a cell phone.)

Upon walking on stage, Ryan leaned into the microphone, said hello to the crowd and thanked us for coming, ending the greeting with a hilariously enthusiastic "Aww, snap!" The set kicked off with "A Kiss Before I Go," and instantly, I felt fortunate to be seeing him perform at the Berkeley Community Theatre. It is fast becoming one of my favorite venues because the sound quality is superb. And after seeing how tight a live band Ryan and The Cardinals are, it only magnified their talent tenfold.

A few songs into the set was "Goodnight Rose," which is not necessarily a favorite of mine from Ryan's most recent album, Easy Tiger, but it sounded fantastic live. This proved to be a common theme of the night: not one song sounded bad or less than stellar in any way. One of the most impressive things to me during the show was just how well Ryan's vocals cut through the music. His voice is versatile and has a richness to it that you don't hear very often.


Ryan was in a very good mood throughout the whole show and spent a lot of time talking to the crowd. He shared random stories and thoughts, often in a whisper into the mic, always earning a lot of laughter from everyone. In one instance, someone in the balcony yelled his name, and he replied, "Shh. Don't talk to me. I'm at work right now, I'll get in trouble. We'll talk later." All of his interactions with the audience and his band members were very funny, comfortable and good natured, allowing for a welcoming feel and even more enjoyable experience.

The set moved along beautifully, with one of my favorites of the night, "Easy Plateau," which just has a great vibe to it; love the guitar bit in the beginning. "Mockingbird" featured some of Ryan's best vocals: a perfect balance of strong yet gentle.

One of the best moments of the show -- and really, of many shows I've been to -- was when Ryan took the time to wish a happy birthday to an audience member named Summer Rae Brown. After some cute teasing about her southern accent, he went above and beyond, making up a complete song on the spot about her that alternated between endearing and laugh-out-loud funny.

A surprise to me was "When the Stars Go Blue" being next on the set (I am sure this can be credited to the audience poll beforehand, so I'm glad others requested it!) I wasn't expecting it at all, and it's a song I absolutely love so I was thrilled to hear it live. While most are probably familiar with Tim McGraw's cover of this song, good as it is, the original version by Mr. Adams has a quality to it that cannot be replicated.

As it was a long set (the band played for over two hours), there was a brief intermission in the middle. Much of the crowd stayed near their seats, talking excitedly about the first half of the show with those close by. It wasn't long before the second half started back up with an inspired version of "Blue Hotel."

"Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part," another favorite of mine, was as enchanting as ever; the melody is simple and beautiful, the words heartbreaking.


I was very excited to hear "Cold Roses." This was one of Ryan's songs that always jumped out at me for some reason, and it was so much more impressive live. Musically and vocally it was flawless, and the harmonies were spot-on. It all came together well enough to give you chills. Like many of the songs performed, it was a few minutes longer than the studio recording; and though sometimes a band doing this can be tedious, that was never the case with these guys. It always felt very fresh and exciting.

The set wrapped up with the fun and high-tempo "Shakedown on 9th Street," segueing directly into "I See Monsters," which live was heavier and about twice as long than it is on Love is Hell. It really was done in such a way to be a great, epic closer; the band turned it up, the light show was crazy and the crowd loved it. The perfect grand finale to what was an incredible show.

I'm very happy to have been able to see Ryan Adams and The Cardinals live. I'd definitely be more than willing to catch them again when they come back around and I'd recommend anyone do the same if they have the opportunity.

Full setlist:
A Kiss Before I Go
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Goodnight Rose
Peaceful Valley
Easy Plateau
Beautiful Sorta
Happy Birthday Summer Rae Brown
When the Stars Go Blue
I Taught Myself How to Grow Old
Everybody Knows
Let It Ride


Blue Hotel
Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part
Dear Chicago
Wild Flowers
What Sin Replaces Love
Cold Roses
Shakedown on 9th Street
I See Monsters

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Good times. I've always wondered what kind of show Ryan Adams put on. I've always read about him, but never listened to him. Now I wanna check him out!


This show soounds amazing! I really love that way that you put your reader right there at the show with you. That is an awesome venue, I agree!


Makes me want to see him live. I agree with the Berkeley venue - the best sound quality in the Bay Area - or NCA for that matter! Good blog Taylore, thanks for the descriptive and comprehensive review.


Excellent review as always. Makes me want to see Ryan Adams. I did not know he was the original author of "When the Stars Go Blue", anyone who watches One Tree Hill knows that song!


I have always wondered about Ryan Adams too but after reading your review I desperately want to see him live. Wow. What a personable guy and the show sounded like so much fun!!!


Wow, sounds like quite a concert! I'll check him out. You did such a good job on the review!


I checked Ryan Adams out because of this and he really is a great musician. Thanks for the tip! I hope i can catch him live sometime.


I've never heard Ryan's music but that sounds like a great show. I am amazed at your ability to go from not knowing much about someone and spouting out great detailed reviews like this!


I keep hearing good things about this guy but I've never took the time to check out his music. I will have to do that! You did such a great job describing the show and the music. You have a real way of making people interested in what you write about.


i love his album cold roses. i am jealous you got to see him live, he seems like a great performer.


I have a friend that saw Ryan Adams last year and she was TOTALLY blown away. After reading this review I think I really need to catch him live! love.


Oh, I didn't know he did "When the Stars Go Blue" either! I love that song. I'll have to download his version.

He sounds like a great musician. Another fantastic review.


i went to the berekely community theater a few years ago and i agree that the sound is AMAZING. it sounds like this show was no different. i love it!


As a long-time Ryan Adams fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this blog. You captured his live performance (which is incredible) well and did a good job making us feel the experience. thanks.


i am a big fan of ryan's also. he is just so talented and i wish he got more recognition for his songwriting and musicianship. i am so happy to see going to this show converted you into a fan. he is magic.


GREAT review! I love that you added in when Ryan talks to the audience because he can be so funny and it's a big part of his charm as a live act.

claire w.

you did a really great job on this. i've loved ryan for years and it's hard to describe how good he is live but you managed to bring it to your readers. thanks for the review!


This was a great blog review. I love your way of describing songs.


Makes me want to see a show at that place! I have never heard of Ryan Adams but this is a great review andyou made it really personable.


I have to comment on the pics and say that the lighting looks really cool!

I finally read this review and it is simply fantastic. You would make a great music journalist!

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