The Mystery of Ryan Adams and the Lure of Big Thief

Ryan Adams at The Orpheum

Despite a bout of nausea that lead to a cancellation at SXSW, Ryan Adams was able to power through a remarkable 140 minute set at the Orpheum last Tuesday night.  One of the things I love about Adams is that despite all of the attention that is paid to his off-stage persona, when he is on stage the power of his performance reigns.  There was a moment early in the night when Adams stepped up to a microphone stand that was draped in white Christmas lights.  He was alone with an acoustic guitar.  The set that he has been touring with for the past year includes vintage video game cabinets and towering amplifier stacks.  It is in essence the caricature of a basement man cave.  The single strand of white lights wrapped around the mic were the finishing touch.  There is something touchingly ironic about the presentation that encapsulates Adams’ persona.  He was approaching the mic to play the new song “Doomsday” from his recent release Prisoner.  The song is a triumph and draws attention to Adams’ strengths as a performer.  His voice and philosophy evident in each verse.  These are the moments that define one of Adams’ shows and they are the secret behind his longevity.  The Orpheum has been an amazing venue for these wonderful explorations of artistry and this show was no exception.

Big Thief and Mothers

On Monday night Big Thief rolled into Gasa Gasa with Mothers in the supporting slot.  I have been looking forward to this show for quite a while and it did not disappoint.  Both of these bands function as tightly knit machines.  There is a precision to their music that demands it.  The Mothers sound like the future of music to me.  There is something in their sound that is familiar but which they execute through a series of signature changes and small improvisations.  Kristine Leschper’s voice dramatically coils around phrases.  A relatively short set from Mothers can invoke a range of styles and emotions over the course of just seven songs.  After Mothers, Big Thief took the stage.  Frontwoman Adrianne Lecker is a force of nature.  There is a shyness to her presence between songs that belies the utter power of her voice and vision.  From the outset the crowd was rapt.  Always looking forward, the show focused on some new cuts that the band is preparing for their next record, with last year’s standout track “Masterpiece” stuck in the middle of the set as a clear sign that that sound was not the end but rather a step on the path to something more.  The power of this band live is immense.  When Buck Meek takes off on guitar his sound becomes a voice in its own right medlied with Lecker.  Chalk up another great night of music to Gasa. 



To Do This Week

Tonight check out Katatonia at Republic.  Tomorrow and Saturday Bonnie Prince Billy is at the Music Box Village.  Friday you can also catch Tank and the Bangas at Tips with Smoke N Bones.  Also Saturday the David Egan Songbook tribute will be at Tips with Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, C.C. Adcock, Roddie Romero, David Torkanowsky, Kristin Diable, Buddy Flett, Kevin Gordon, Papa Mali, Steve Riley and More.  Wednesday check out Brian Wilson playing Pet Sounds at the Saenger. 


To Listen This Week


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