Friday, February 1, 2008

still i see monsters

the night started with a mixed up directions foible, not something all that uncommon when driving anywhere with me. this time, though, it was truly a mistake in directions as one necessary freeway was left out. we eventually solved the mishap and made it to the show. the campus of ucla is always a bit of a surprise to me, lush and beautiful, rather how i always picture universities are meant to look due to the depictions i have seen on the screen. the night was cool and crisp, but clear enough to see stars - orion's belt, to be precise, as pointed out by kate's young son, austin. fitting to the starry night, the first song we caught as we descended the stairs leading to our balcony seats, was when the stars go blue. the stage, lit up in glorious blue lights that shone on and around the shadowy silhouettes of cactus, set the tone and enveloped us into the music immediately.

i am not a fan of arriving late to shows, stumbling about in the dark to find a seat and not being there when the lights go down always leave me feeling a little disjointed, but not this time. the music would not let me, it pulled me right in and i was spinning around in it for the rest of the set.

despite the fact that i had been told time and again how incredible ryan is live, it still blew me away at what kind of performer he actually is. his talent is breathtaking, handling his guitars as if they were extensions of his own body, bending and pulling into each progression and strum. and later, sat in front of the piano, blowing me away once again with the music that just seeps out of his small frame. and then there was his voice, soaring and sultry, going everywhere from heartbreaking in songs like blue hotel (a recent favorite of mine), to playful and retro rock and roll on shakedown on 9th street (making me smile with the chorus of "lucy, lucy my gal").

covers of alice in chains' down in a hole and oasis' wonderwall were brilliant, ryan taking familiar songs and making them completely their own. wonderwall brought tears streaming down my cheeks, stark and vulnerable, and just beautiful.

i see monsters was my favorite of the night. the haunting lyrics, ryan's voice echoing throughout royce hall in some kind of soulful desperate plea to true love and sleepless nights. there was a bit of the ghost of jeff buckley in his voice, that crooning blues-heavy kind of number that makes your soul shake. i knew right then and there that this would be a show that would reverberate in my senses for a long time afterwards, and that this song would become one of those that live in my canon of musical devotion. the kind of song that asks for the repeat button to be hit, over and over, as i close my eyes and see a story slowly unfolding.

amidst all the beauty and awe there was the sheer wit and hilarity that is ryan's personality. his random rambles of conversation were the kind of thing that you have with friends you have known for years, sitting around a room and talking circles around everything and anything. he talked of an unrequited high school crush that led him to buy a white lion album, which strung its way to his created version of how the band got their name. another time it was about grocery shopping while high, and having a crisis in the frozen food aisle, or the unfortunate dismay of having to poop in someone else's house. it sounds silly, i suppose, and maybe it becomes a case of "you just had to have been there", but when ryan would go off on one of his seemingly non-sensical tangents the invisible fourth wall that separates the audience from the performer fell down, and it left you with the illusion that we were all just sitting around with a good friend who happens to be an incredible musician, in the true sense of the word.

there was more to rave about, much more, but my head is a bit fuzzy, and my nerves still jangly from the show - in the best way. all i can say, in closing, is if you get the chance to see ryan and the cardinals live, you should take it, i guarantee you will not be disappointed.

i hope young austin loved it as much as i did. for a first concert experience it was a pretty keen one. and again, a special and heartfelt thank you to kate for taking me. it meant more than i can express in words.

ryan adams and the cardinals, january 31, 2008 ~ royce hall, ucla, california.


  1. Aye, I do beleive Ryan created a little concert goer in Austin...he thanked me over dinner. "Mom thanks for the concert last night. Really, thank you mom. Can I go to Slayer in Spril for my second concert?"

  2. My life is just better because Ryan is in it, and I have you to thank for that. You're infectious...

  3. I have seen this master of musical tourettes live three times and have always felt exactly the same as this reviewer. It is nice to see people finally recognising the Ryan genius instead of giving him the slatings I have so often read in the past.

  4. i'm so glad he liked it. i kept sneaking looks at him, and a lot of the time i saw that spark in his eye that he gets when something interests him.

    and it makes me smile that he is already planning his second concert!

  5. the master of musical tourettes is such a perfect description!!!

  6. i'm so glad you feel that way about ryan, rebecca. he sort of just steals you away, doesn't he?

  7. A truly lovely concert "review", more of an emotional roller-coaster with good musical accompaniment.

  8. Jealous! It sounds like it was an awesome show. :)