Music review: Ryan Adams at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Ryan Adams performs at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. PIC: Alan Rennie
Ryan Adams performs at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. PIC: Alan Rennie
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If there are not already enough purely musical reasons to love Ryan Adams, his quirky insistence on the anachronistic use of swathes of fragranced dry ice, more suitable for an 80s goth band or a production of Phantom of the Opera than one of the most adored Americana songwriters of his generation, could well have clinched the love affair.

Ryan Adams ****

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

For many, Adams is the Springsteen of his generation but he can be a right awkward article, a notoriously tetchy and precious performer, if more than sufficiently talented to make the grief worthwhile. So if Ryan wants dry ice, so be it.

As things turned out, the only great drama over the next two hours was that inherently present in his music, as he and his righteous band launched into devotional opener Do You Still Love Me? Need he ask? The capacity crowd were smitten at the first chord.

But while Adams is an accomplished roots rocker, truly honouring both elements of that description, he is an even greater troubadour, a quite exquisite songwriter who could silence a room with the beauty of his melodies – not this vociferous room though, we’re all too excited at the prospect of Adams and acoustic guitar at the front of the stage, heading off piste due to some perceived technical difficulty which held the band at bay for a few numbers.

The sparse but spellbinding solo likes of My Winding Wheel, Jacksonville Skyline, Ashes & Fire and Prisoner, an aching paean to the hell of love from his most recent album, all rang out with a pure, direct emotional vulnerability, enhanced by the beautiful Usher Hall acoustic, before the reverie was broken in delicious fashion by the return of the rollicking soulful rock’n’roll band experience, with Adams pledging to play on through the curfew to complete his intended marathon set.

In the end, he confined himself to letting rip most thrillingly on an extended acid rock wigout at the heart of Cold Roses, followed up with some Neil Young noodling and revved up to a rock’n’roll finish with guest backing vocals from his support act Karen Elson, the Oldham-born, Nashville-based model and former Mrs Jack White, who had earlier delivered a fine set of fragrant gothic country pop, embellished with bluegrass fiddle and a certain Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra spirit.