By Robin Simcox

Going to see Ryan Adams is a bit like going to church. There is a revered silence in the venue, you’re not really allowed to take photographs and the congregation believe they’re in the presence of a higher power. Except this higher power is talking about plumbing, Freddie Krueger, keytars and Napalm Death. 

This zealous believer is at a sold out, acoustic solo performance at a balmy Lincoln Theatre in Washington DC. Adams runs through a set as unconventional as his career, featuring two Fugazi covers and one from Sun Kil Moon alongside a handful of new songs. However, there’s also plenty of fan favourites from Heartbreaker and Gold, his millennium-era masterpieces. A soaring ‘My Winding Wheel’, rollicking ‘Firecracker’ and a bluesy, finger-picked ‘To Be Young’ serve as reminders as to how timeless those songs are. There is also a welcome outing for ‘The End’ from the majestic but under-appreciated 2005 album Jacksonville City Nights.

The reception Adams receives throughout the night is rapturous but there’s an edge to proceedings. Surveilling his setlist halfway through the night, Adams warns the casual fans in the crowd that they are about to lose interest for a run of songs, something which he only half-jokingly says he gives “zero fucks” about. 

There is also a very persistent heckler determined to try and get a rise out of a performer who in the past has not been immune to provocation from the floor. Ten years ago, the show could have been derailed. Now older and wiser, Adams eases any tension adeptly though tells the heckler at the evening’s conclusion that “I really hope you’re not at my next show. I wanna say respectfully this has been fun but I prefer doing these shows myself.” A thousand odd other people in the room vocally agree. Adams extends the audience’s delight by seeing the evening out with ‘Come Pick Me Up’, a song he may never better but which nobody else likely will either. 

As the last note on his harmonica rings out, Adams shuffles to the front of the stage to bask in the adulation. The congregation responds, their faith reaffirmed.


Oh My Sweet Carolina

My Winding Wheel

Waiting Room

To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)

If I Am A Stranger

New York, New York

Gimme Something Good

Was I Wrong

Let It Ride

The End

To Be Without You


I Do Not Feel Like Being Good

Haunted House

Ashes & Fire

Glenn Tipton


Everybody Knows

Come Pick Me Up