Ryan Adams played a free show last night at the Boulder Theater in support of Barack Obama's re-election campaign. The packed Boulder house was politely quiet throughout the entire hour and a half solo acoustic set. Nowadays Adams likes his shows intimate and free of distraction and the crowd respectfully abided, for the most part. "Thanks for choosing Boulder," a fan yelled. "Mandy made me do it," Adams answered.
The show was announced last Saturday. Fans could pick up a free ticket at the Democratic headquarters on The Hill in Boulder. Roughly three-quarters of the tickets were given out for free, with the remainder being traded to fans for volunteer work including door-to-door canvassing and data entry. Republicans brought Kid Rock to Red Rocks last week, it was nice to see the Democrats endorsed by such a fine, accomplished songwriter instead of the sorry excuse for an artist that is Kid Rock.
“I haven’t played these songs…since the last time I played these songs,” remarked Adams in his particular brand of sarcastic humor. In fact, he hardly talked politics at all, other than mentioning there was a voting station across from the theater and suggesting the audience vote before changing the water in their bongs. He also joked that only one of the candidates had seen Star Wars, or rather “understood” Star Wars (NOTE: As of 3 hours ago, Star Wars is now owned by Disney).
A bold "Ashes & Fire" started the evening off on acoustic guitar. He switched it up between the red, white & blue Buck Owens and his Harmony Sovereign for a run that included "If I Am a Stranger," "English Girls Approximately" (rocked, as it always does), "My Winding Wheel" "Let it Ride" and “Please Don’t Let Me Go.” Adams shuffled around stage in between songs comically disheveled, flipping through his three-ring binder, sitting down, then standing up, picking up one guitar, tuning it, then putting it down and picking up the other, and offering humorous tidbits of this and that: joking that he forgot his glasses that have all of his lyrics written on the lenses, doing an improv song about his cat and dropping subtle digs on himself and his "sad, depressing" songs.
Firecracker" and "Everybody Knows" came about a six songs into the set and were two highlights of the evening, along "Houses On The Hill" from Whiskeytown. For "Sylvia Plath," "Rescue Blues" and "New York, New York", Adams put down his acoustic and tickled the ivory of his 1980 Baldwin upright piano.
The Boulder crowd was pretty damn polite. They'd obviously heard the rumors about his acoustic shows and feared the wrath of the artist should they dare peek at their cell phone or attempt to take a photo. The bars were closed and no one seemed to mind. These RA acoustic shows are in a word- stellar, and it was nice to see people respect and embrace the style in which the performer likes to operate, even if it's a bit over the top. It makes for quite an intimate night of music, and after all, it was free, and it was Ryan's football.
Adams wrapped up the set by around 10 o'clock with "Come Pick Me Up," then came back out for a wail in' "Black Sheets of Rain," by Bob Mould. Thanks to the Boulder Theater for hosting, and to Mandy Moore for location choice!