Notes To Ryan Adams, From A Fan In Byron Bay

25 May 2017 | 4:01 pm | Martin Jones

Musings from the US musician's show at The Northern, Wednesday 24 May

Dear Ryan, can you see anything out from under that shag of hair?

Dear Ryan, I have seen many Ryans over the years — the spectacularly loose Ryan (do you remember that Sonic Youth cover you played at The Palace?), the sick and struggling Ryan, the insolent Ryan (why did you scream at the audience like Paul Stanley between EVERY song that one time?), the festival rock star Ryan — I wonder which Ryan you’re going to give us tonight?

Dear Ryan, wow, the hippy Ryan? I’ve never heard you address an insensitive photographer with terms like “I love you, man,” and, “I wanna document my soul.”

Dear Ryan, that set-opening version of Magnolia Mountain is one of the best pieces of music I have ever heard you perform. It was adventurous and widescreen but still tight. Your guitar playing was poised and lyrical.

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Dear Ryan, I also loved the rockabilly version of To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High). When Dave Rawlings was in town recently, he told the story of you two drinking and writing To Be Young (this is his story, so don’t sue me). He said he called you the next day to say he’d finished the song you guys had been working on all night and you replied, "What song?"

Dear Ryan, are you enjoying yourself? Judging by the music I’d say "Yes", but there are few smiles or jokes between band members and it’s sometimes hard to tell, which makes for an uneasy experience as an audience member.

Dear Ryan, so we’re going to get 'Poised Ryan' tonight? You seem laser focused on the music and, now that the sound is sorted, Fix It is a feast for the ears. Your voice is both controlled and emotive.

Dear Ryan, I can never tell what you’re thinking. Is that the way you like it?

Dear Ryan, those small, hairy, stoned creatures with their tongues hanging out that ran up to you on the beach? They were possibly not dogs, we have a lot of creatures like that in Byron.

Dear Ryan, I find it interesting that you have put together a band that excels in those drawn-out explorations a la Grateful Dead/Chris Robinson Brotherhood, but without Neal Casal in the band! Did Neal influence that direction? Or did you in fact seek him out to help you explore that direction? Or both? Or neither? Hmm.

Dear Ryan, Clams Casino! Yes, the full-size stuffed tiger on stage helped with the Clams Casino vibe too.

Dear Ryan, going to do a gig at a pub in Byron Bay and complaining that some people have only come to drink and get laid is like going to the beach and complaining that it’s covered in sand. Such addresses to the crowd make people want to either punch you or hug you. That’s what you want, right? An extreme reaction? You don’t want people to walk away saying, ‘Oh, Ryan Adams, he’s a good time with a guitar strapped on.’ You want more.

Dear Ryan, your address to those drunk people made a difference. They either left or shut up. But you also changed the direction of the set at that point, going from more dynamic and left-field song choices to New York, New York, Friends, Gimme Something Good, Two. Was that a reactionary detour?

Dear Ryan, addressing the security guard and publically observing his distaste for your music was extremely funny.

Dear Ryan, I honestly felt the set lost a bit of momentum in the third quarter (have you ever watched AFL?). But you made up for it in the last quarter with some breathtaking music, particularly the extended and improvised Cold Roses and Dirty Rain.

Dear Ryan, playing for over two hours without a break is generous. (Playing at a tiny venue like the Northern is also generous — I’m guessing you wanted a stopover in Byron). We thought we were getting a special workout at such an intimate venue as the Northern, but I see you actually played substantially longer at both Brisbane shows, clocking up nearly 30 songs! Was it the venue curfew or a lack of audience energy that caused the ‘shorter’ set at Byron?

Dear Ryan, having said that, kudos for dismissing the usually ridiculous custom of the ‘encore’.

Dear Ryan, come back anytime.