Ryan Adams: Manic Pixie Dream Boy (Review)

Ryan Adams – Enmore Theatre. 24 July 2015 

There’s a safe masculinity to Ryan Adams. 14 years after his first album he’s still writing enjoyable catchy love songs with plenty of guitar. The music is infused with the foundations of the Doors, Led Zeppelin (yes I know they’re not American) and Creedence Clearwater Revival, which has evolved into the post-grunge wave of American Rock that rejected Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Stone Temple Pilot’s dark struggles for identity in favour of ham-fisted (yet highly addictive) expressions of love. This is the Americana of The Heightsthe Goo Goo Dolls and Five For Fighting. There’s no doubt Adams does it well. In a genre of one hit wonders he’s gone the distance.

This is the loving, adventurous United States of America so many want to believe in, where the only bad thing that happens is a broken heart. Ryan Adams isn’t breaking hearts, he’s the one looking for love: “I love you baby, so treat me right, hold me closer in the middle of the night,” (Stay With Me, 2014). He’s the heartbroken one, the hard-be-done-by one who loves everyone and does best by everyone, loving us all, even when people’s cameras are apparently triggering his Ménière’s disease.

The woman sitting next to me at the Enmore was having such an amazing Ryan Adams experience she shook a whole row of seats as she swooned. She pressed her hand unbelievingly to her forehead each time she realised Ryan was singing one of his own songs (who would have thought?!) and switched nimbly between Facebook messaging a friend somewhere else in the crowd and recording snippets of the gig on her phone. Adams is clearly her perfect man. Her own boyfriend – large long-haired, bearded and clearly more a fan of Adams’ hard rock work – was along for the ride and much more sedate. Like the rest of us, he can’t compete with the Ryan Adams of her imagination, her manic pixie dream boy, the arms-length projection of all the things we’re not.

Adams feeds from the deep current of American rock and channels the music well. His metaphorical landscapes are cities and roads. It’s a nice place to be immersed in for a while, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying if the biggest thing you can dream of extends beyond a love affair.

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