I started listening to Ryan Adams about two years ago. I had heard of Ryan Adams but had never really listened to him and didn't understand what the big deal was. So when I saw one of his CDs, "Cold Roses," at the library, I checked it out and put it on my Itunes. I tried listening to it, along with "Love is Hell," for a couple of weeks, but could never really get into it. Finally, after at least half a dozen listenings, I got it; something clicked. Ryan Adams is incredible and I have been listening ever since. I've got nine of his studio albums (which include two Whiskeytown albums) and four of his unreleased/bootleg abums. If I could rank myself as a Ryan Adams fan on a scale from 1-10, I would probably consider myself a pretty solid 7.
So last month when I heard that Ryan Adams was going to be playing in Alpharetta, and that one of my friends/classmates was going to be going, I jumped on the chance and bought two tickets. I'm not really a "concert guy," but I figured this was a fairly rare opportunity to see him, so it was a no-brainer.
Well, the big day finally arrived this past Friday and I drove over to the new Verizon Wireless Amphithreatre (which was very nice, by the way) with my brother, my friend/classmate, and her boyfriend. We got there around 8:15 and the Cardinals (Ryan Adams' band, whose name he is now playing under) finally started playing at 8:45. They opened with some new songs from their upcoming record and played a "Peaceful Valley" from Cold Roses (which was probably the best song of the concert, in my opinion). However, about 20 minutes into the concert Ryan apologized that he was losing his voice and said that they would do the best they could to get through it. I knew at this moment that things were not likely going to end well.
In case you are unaware, Ryan has a pretty ugly reputation for ending shows mid-way through, walking off stage, getting mad and cussing out the audience. A lot of this reputedly has to do with his problems with drugs and alcohol, but Ryan has supposedly been clean for about the past two years. These problems were supposed to have ended, but apparently not. The band continued to play, and after a few more songs Ryan complained and apologized about his voice again. This happened a couple of more times, and finally, after "Shakedown On 9th Street" Ryan apologized again, apologized for and to the band, and walked off stage. The rest of the Cardinals looked pretty dismayed and eventually walked off too. This was about 9:50; the band had been playing for just over an hour.
At first people didn't do anything because they either assumed that it was some sort of stunt, or thought that perhaps they were going to take a quick break and come back and play more. I knew it was for real though, and it became clear to everyone else once the house lights came back up. Eventually, everyone just started to leave, many of whom were cursing his name.
Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed. I think I was even mroe annoyed by the fact that Ryan's voice never sounded bad anyways, and I couldn't tell whether he really was sick, or whether he was just unsatisfied with the crowd or the venue or both. When I got home, I went on forum at the Ryan Adams Archive website to see what others were saying. By that time, there were already three pages of posts complaining about the show. By the time I got back to Clemson that night, there were seven pages worth. There were more than a few disgruntled fans expressing their angre and disappointment, while several of the older forum members insisted on defending him, in spite of the fact that none of them were actually at the concert. Then, when I went to check it the next day, I found that the moderators had inexplicably deleted the entire thread. From what I learned on some other Ryan Adams forums, Ryan Adams Archive is the officially sanctioned by the Cardinals, and deleting the thread may have been a decision that came from the band itself. Regardless, I found this to be an egregious example of censorship, and it probably did not create any good will on behalf of the fans in Atlanta.
So what am I getting at here? I'm not really sure. I still think Ryan Adams is a fantastic musician; I will likely even purchase the new album, "Cardinology," when it comes out. However, I will have no qualms about getting any of his other albums for free in order to make up for the money that was wasted on the tickets to the concert. And I will certainly think twice about buying tickets to another Ryan Adams concert; it seems like attending his shows are like playing a game of Russian roulette with more than one bullet in the gun. As I noted earlier, I don't go to a lot of concerts, but I have been to my share of live shows and I have never seen anything remotely like this happen. The Cardinals issued a statement about the show on their blog and said that they will make it up. I'll believe it when I see it, but I would like to think that they will keep their word about that.