Last night, Massey Hall played host to the sweet and sad tunes of Ryan Adams. Currently touring for his sixteenth studio album, Prisoners, Adams brought us more tales of melancholy as his 2015 divorce to singer/actress Mandy Moore inspired his latest record. However, there was nothing but love for Adams from the 2,500+ sold out crowd in Toronto.
Adams opened the impressive 120-minute set with his newest single “Do You Still Love Me?” A wrenching song with a powerful riff and an anthemic chorus that sounds like a Deep Purple or Steppenwolf chart topper from 40 years ago. The band filled the room instantly from the very first guitar chord and when Adams’ lips touched the microphone for the first time, everyone’s heart sunk at the sound of his vocals. And that was it, Adams had us mesmerized.
From there, Adams keep us enthralled and unrolled his set with favourites such as “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” “Gimme Something Good,” and “Two” before sharing some more new tracks from Prisoners.
Everything about Adams’ set has a classic 60s/70s vibe. Not only does his music have a vintage rock n’ roll sound, but over-sized retro Fender amps and tube televisions (and a few stuffed animal cats of course) pile high around the stage. He dresses in all denim with his signature cat mascot tee underneath. After a few songs he removed his jean jacket, hung it on a coat rack, and informed us, “I could have kept it on longer, but I’ve always wanted a coat rack on stage. I finally got one.” Before continuing, he joked, “This song goes out to my coat rack.”
Adams’ has a rare ability and range to play both a soft and hard rock style. Sometimes even in the same song. During “Magnolia Mountain,” a song from his time with The Cardinals, he entranced us with a lengthy guitar solo that was so electric, Hendrix himself would be drooling on the floor. But the most impressive part was how he transitioned in a split second to a melody soft and tender like a Neil Young ballad. Adams alluded to his influence from Neil Young jocularly, “…Something tells me he has a thing for weed and cats as well.”
Every now and then, the backup band would disappear and Adams would step forward to a classic ribbon microphone wrapped in Christmas lights to perform a solo song that would melt us into our seats. Silence filled the hall when Adams mesmerized us with his haunting and chilling cover of “Wonderwall.” Again, when he returned for an encore, his solo version of “Come Pick Me Up” left some audience members in tears.
No one left unhappy we all exited the venue in awe. It’s nights like this that will cement Massey Hall as the premiere venue for artists of this nature. It is also apparent that Ryan Adams is still blossoming as a songwriter into his early forties and he continues to find beauty in his heartbreak. Rest assured Ryan, we still love you babe.