Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

I’ll be the first to admit that Ryan Adams has never really commanded my full attention. I had him mentally filed away under “alt-country” (read: not usually my thing), and was expecting a laid-back concert. Instead, I was treated to a highly entertaining show that included a Maroon 5 impression, a bathroom break, and an out-of-body experience.

After kicking things off approximately 50 minutes late with “Goodnight Rose” and expressing delight at performing at “Foellinger Stadium,” a playful Ryan Adams delivered some solid vocals on “The Rescue Blues.”

The Cardinals flexed their collective muscle on “A Kiss Before I Go,” as Jon Graboff gave a strong performance on pedal steel guitar, and guitarist Neal Casal’s backing vocals were the perfect compliment to Adams. After the song, Adams worked the crowd, saying, “I remember when Neal wrote that song. It was back in 1958, before you were born.”

After a long instrumental break on “Peaceful Valley,” Adams and company went into a great version of “What Sin.” Maybe it was the colored lights or the giant disco ball hanging from the ceiling, but the song had an almost psychedelic feel to it, and featured great vocals from Adams.

At one point, a nicotine-deprived Adams – “What am I gonna have to quit next, breathing?” – took a few moments to compose himself while seated at the piano. “I’m freaking out, you guys,” he told the crowd. “It’s like being both Olsen twins.”

After briefly leaving the stage to relieve himself, Adams returned to deliver a strong second half of the show that included “Two,” “The Sun Also Sets,” and “Cold Roses.” Adams was surprisingly engaging during the set, delivering such gems as “I feel like Paula Poundstone with no vest on,” and doing a spot-on impression of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. What he lacked in musicality, he made up for in charm, and the show left me with a new appreciation for what Adams does.

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