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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 10, 2008 @ 10:14 am

    Reviews: Ryan Adams and The Cardinals

    Fiona McCann

    The wild child of rock is now in his 30s and he appears to have entered a new era of stability.

    Tonight there was little of the shambolic self-indulgence that had become a feature of a Ryan Adams gig. Instead, Adams was focused and together, delivering a blistering two-hour set. This was Adams at the peak of his powers with backing band The Cardinals acting as the perfect foil for his talents.

    Inevitably, much of the set was devoted to tracks from the impressive new album Cardinology , in which a re-invigorated Adams fuses his alt country roots with some driving rock. It blends elements from the likes of Neil Young, U2 and The Grateful Dead.

    The wunderkind must be slowing up. Cardinology is only his first album in 18 months; this from a highly prolific performer who delivered no less than three albums in 2004. In truth, Adams has probably still to deliver on the potential he showed on his breakthrough Heartbreaker album in 2000. His drug problems and other demons have often overshadowed his talent.

    But tonight, it is clear that sobriety and Ryan Adams are comfortable bedfellows.

    Fix It , the stand out track from the new album, features a searing Wilco-style guitar, while Cobwebs showcases Adams’s great vocal range. Adams also treats us to his eerie, countrified version of Oasis’ Wonderwall . After hearing the version, the Gallaghers once observed that Ryan Adams now owns the song; on stage it was a real highlight. There was no shortage of others as Adams rolled out songs from his back pages including familiar favourites like When The Stars go Blue and La Cinega just Smiled .

    There was none of the usual tantrums and grandstanding from Adams. Instead, the whole gig had a warm glow as Adams and The Cardinals settled into what they used to call a comfortable groove.

    Adams performed half a dozen songs during a long encore. His voice was at its most fragile and haunting on Stop , his song about sickness and recovery.

    The new album, which has soared into the US charts, is expected to be Adams’ last on Lost Highway records. It may be that part one of his brilliant careers is over. Apparently, he favours a change of direction – more rock and less alt country.

    There is every reason to be excited by the prospect. Ryan Adams may be cleaned up and chilled out, but he is a bona fide rock star. This gig throbbed with great vocals and great playing. Adams is back on track. SEAN FLYNN

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