In what may be their last tour for some time, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals put on a magical show on Friday night and thrilled the sold out show with a stunning exhibition of musicianship and exquisite vocals.

Ryan Adams recently stated that he will be leaving the Cardinals at the end of the current tour, and taking a step back from music. He has been diagnosed with Ménière's disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance and can eventually cause deafness in the affected ear. I imagine it would be a difficult ailment for a performing artist to cope with, especially a musician. He will instead be concentrating on his writing, with his first book, Infinity Blues, a collection of poetry and short stories, due for release in April this year.

The Cardinals, Neal Casal (lead guitar, vocals), Chris Feinstein (bass), John Graboff (pedal steel, vocals) and Brad Pemberton (drums) are one of the great live bands and they certainly didn't disappoint on Friday night, playing exhilarating country rock with a precision born of long association.

The evening was kicked off by the Clip Clop Club - the most unlikely support act - who astonished the Adams fans with renditions of Raw Hide, Ghost Riders in the Sky and an extraordinarily crass song called Kylie's Arse. Perhaps Ryan, having now given up every one of his vices, including cigarettes, would have related to I've Given Up Everything, sung to the tune of I've Been Everywhere. Instead of place names, the lyrics detail all the drugs and alcohol that had been consumed and abandoned by the narrator.

It was about 9.20 by the time Ryan and Cardinals took the stage. The theatre, in comparison to last time at the Palais was steaming hot rather than freezing cold, but the stage lighting once again was subdued.

These issues hardly mattered as the Cardinals performed in close sequence, the crowd pleasing When the Stars Go Blue, Two from Easy Tiger and Let it Ride from Cold Roses.

Stars Go Blue is one of my favourite songs from Gold and I was really hoping the Cardinals would play it and was thrilled that they obliged.

In all it was a perfect Ryan Adams concert, as we were treated to a set list of well loved songs, drawn from Ryan's back catalogue, as well as songs from recent albums Easy Tiger and Cardinology. There was a spooky, spine tingling version of the Oasis song Wonderwall, which first made an appearance on Love Is Hell. Ryan's version is acknowledged as a masterpiece. From Heartbreaker we got the twisted romance of Come Pick Me Up - an oft requested song, also the exquisite Sweet Carolina and the beautiful heartbreaking Why Do They Leave. And from Gold, as well as Stars Go Blue, there was La Cienega Just Smiled, Rescue Blues, and a fabulous slow, bluesy version of New York, New York.

Other highlights were Everybody Knows, The Sun Also Sets, Born Into A Light and the sole rocker from Cardinology, Magick.

As previously mentioned, the stage was dark, hence the poor photo quality, and it was hot, hot hot. All that didn't matter in what was an engrossing and mesmeric show. Those down the front were sprayed with water by a security guy. This evoked a comment from Ryan.

"How does one become a person squirter?" he asked, adding, "I'm looking for another gig," no doubt referring to his impending retirement from the music business.

The set lasted for two hours and covered twenty-two songs. Everyone was in a good mood including Ryan, who was quite exuberant, entertaining the crowd with impromptu silly songs and introducing the band in a cartoon character voice.

The evening ended fittingly with a rousing version of Easy Plateau, after which the band bowed and waved and departed the stage. There were no encores as usual.

In conclusion I really think Friday night's show - the Cardinals part anyway - was one of the best shows I've ever witnessed and the best Ryan Adams concert I've seen.

Let's hope Ryan Adams' retirement from music doesn't last too long and that he'll be back soon to entertain his devoted Aussie fans. Meanwhile, I'll treasure the memory of this show till he next graces our shores.


On stage 9.20

1. When The Stars Go Blue
2. Two
3. Let It Ride
4. Fix It
5. Everybody Knows
6. Wonderwall
7. Magick
8. Come Pick Me Up
9. New York, New York
10. La Cienega Just Smiled
11. Freeway To The Canyon (Neal Casal)
12. The Sun Also Sets
13. Evergreen
14. Oh My God Whatever, Etc
15. Rescue Blues
16. Natural Ghost
17. Born Into A Light
18. Oh My Sweet Carolina
19. Why do They Leave
20. Grand Island (Neal Casal)
21. This Is It
22. Easy Plateau

Off stage 11.15

Review and photos by Anne Sydenham

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