Ryan Adams makes the most of his Boston set

A review of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at the Bank of America Pavilion on September 7

, Contributing Writer

Where Ryan Adams’ solo work packs more of an emotional acoustic punch, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals deliver country-infused rock with a pounding punch complete with long guitar riffs, drum solos and electrics galore. With little surprises, the band took the stage on Sunday night to a near-sellout crowd at the Bank of America Pavilion and delivered a set energetic yet devoid of thrills.

Anyone visiting the Cardinals’ blog "FOGGY – the CARDINAL CAVE" is treated to the band’s mission statement, if you will, on the side. They are "five guys who just love to share the jams and the words and the good times for you." They invite their fans to "Stop by for some ear soup. We promise to make sure it’s full of waves of cardinology." They delivered as promised, but the show lacked that something special – a guest, new cover or unusual onstage antics. Split into two acts, the band performed many of their greatest and even debuted two new tunes. Much has been said of Adams’ reckless and unpredictable behavior onstage in the past, but those days are over; Adams delighted the crowd with references to Pizzeria Regina and was generally well behaved during the show.

In quick succession the band led off with "Off Broadway," slowed it down with "Bartering Lines" and then really got the crowd going with "Goodnight Rose," the opening track from Adam’s most recent solo project, Easy Tiger.& At the pause before "Cobwebs" Adams took a second to dedicate it to Princess Leia, the first glimpse into Adams’ penchant for hilarious onstage banter. Following was a healthy mix of tunes from Heartbreaker, Gold, and Easy Tiger.

After "Everybody Knows", the little heard "Magick", and popular romantic ballad "Two", the band dedicated the simple yet haunting "Wonderwall" to their friends in Oasis. They are currently guests on tour with the rockers and Boston is one of the slots where the Cardinals stopped alone. Of all the artists that have come forth with their own covers of Oasis’ timeless hit, Adams’ stands out.

"When the Stars Go Blue," covered and made popular by country star Tim McGraw, was accompanied by flashing blue behind the stage’s star backdrop. At times it was a bit jarring to hear some favorite acoustic songs reworked into rock n’ roll jams, but nothing fell flat. The Cardinals, or Brad Pemberton on drums, Jon Graboff on pedal steel/voals, Chris Feinstein on bass, and Neil Casal/Ryan Adams both on guitar/vocals have palpable chemistry. The band clearly showcased their love for unadulterated jamming – many songs were indiscernible at the start, then led into a drawn out rendition of the song and ended in epic fashion – complete with raging drums, gongs, and yells. Such was "Easy Plateau", when Adams’ gleeful pounding of a large brass gong led to the intermission.

The band performed most of Adam’s solo hits early in the moving yet energetic first act, and allowed the second act to be a showcase for lesser-known Cardinals material. Adams stuck mostly to his electric guitar, and only even performed solo on "Wonderwall." He was in fine form, sporting his trademark black-rimmed glasses and overpowering the mic while diminutive in nothing but stature. The show was a good mix of the new and old – after some artists make the transition back to a band, they tend to focus mainly on the band’s material and not their own. Fair enough, but luckily here Adams stepped back and did some of the songs that put him on the map like soulfully pleading "Come Pick Me Up". Between the bent knees, hushed voices and yells of near anguish, he sang as though he was letting the audience in on his little secrets.

After a delightful "Let it Ride" off the Cardinals’ most recent album Cold Roses they followed up with "A Kiss Before I Go", the rocking title track "Cold Roses", and an incredibly fun metal-infused version of "Shakedown on 9th St". The show took a slower turn as the Cards debuted two of their most recent works, "Sinking Ships" and "The Color of Pain". Adams apologized to the audience that he didn’t actually know the color of pain, and launched into the short and rather downbeat tune. The sound was tight, but the energy that even lives in their slower songs wasn’t there.

Adams’ and Casal’s between-song banter is delightful, and towards the end Adams even begged Neal to perform a little "metal medley" for the crowd. On their tour bus, the band (Adams in particular) loves to listen to "ridiculous speed metal," and at times that influence could be heard as the band continued through their improv-rock format. From there they burst into a glorious "Magnolia Mountain," a rousing jam with the slow start and epic finish that characterized many of their songs that night. Ending with the sing-songy tune off Cold Roses, "Beautiful Sorta," and final tune "I See Monsters," the band did not return for an encore. However, there was nothing to complain about as the band played an indulgent three hour set with no opening act. It was a safe show with no big surprises, but still hugely enjoyable and left the audience wanting more even after those three hours.

Leave a Reply