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Ryan Adams – Palace Theatre, St. Paul Mn 7/29/17 and Lollapalooza, Chicago 8/4/17

August 5, 2017


I have seen Ryan Adams several times over the years. Fortunately I have been fortunate to have only seen “the good” Ryan (although his days of on stage misbehaving seem distant at this point). The Palace show continued my streak of seeing the “good” Ryan. This the most rock and roll of the recent shows that I have seen. I don’t know if Ryan adjusts to the venue (or perhaps selects venue based on tour), but a harder rock show seemed appropriate at the Palace Theatre.

This was my first show at the Palace Theatre, a new 2,800-capacity concert venue for contemporary music in the Twin Cities (St. Paul). It is pretty cool vibe. The building is a 100 years old. The renovation appears to have focused on making the venue sea worthy, but not restored. Surfaces look sand blasted and unfinished, yet there are plenty of modern touches. For my aesthetic it looked pretty cool – it is kind of like $250 distressed designer jeans – you want to mock them, but you also want them.

I do have a beef : It is not a great sounding venue (at least not on the general admission floor). When I stood close to the stage the sound was directed over my head. When I went to the rear and elevated part of the GA floor the balcony was messing with the sound. The best spot I found was right in front of the soundboard (usually is), that is slightly elevated and in front of the balcony. I would be curious what the balcony sounds like. Given all the hard surfaces this is not a forgiving venue. It is not Roy Wilkins bad, but it is not Northrop either (my vote for best sounding music venue). I think First Avenue sounds better. But it is brand new and it looks like the focus was getting the venue functional. Hopefully it will be successful and the city will have enough money to soften the venue with some acoustical treatments. In summary, I much prefer it for a rock show over the State and Orpheum – those theaters are too nice (and sit down). It is nice to have a rock venue that is twice the capacity of First Avenue. I am hopeful about the Palace as a music venue.

Back to Ryan Adams. As I mentioned this was rock and roll Ryan. This should not be a surprise because his recent album, Prisoner, is an electric guitar focused LP. The set list was a good cross-section of his catalog with emphasis on Prisoner.

A couple of highlights for me:

  • The extended jam on “Magnolia Mountain/Cold Roses” – it was a mix of jam band, classic rock (I swear I heard a nod to Yes) and punk. It was wonderful detour.
  • A deconstruction of “When Stars Go Blue” with one of the most effective uses of a disco ball that I can remember.
  • What appeared to be a made up song on the spot about St. Paul.

Adams is at the top of his game. He is in an enviable position: he seems in complete control of his career and he is just popular enough to be profitable, but he is not a sellout. He continues to pump out great songs and is able to mine his catalog without being sentimental. His abilities as a performer and frontman have become more confident and entertaining.

As much as I loved the show, it was not quite right.  Six nights later I figured out why.  As a nice little dessert, I got to see Ryan for a one hour festival set at Lollapalooza.  The sound was perfect – that was what made the Palace show unsatisfying – the crappy sound. It is hard to compete with a beautiful night, a festival mood and outside sound.  It was fantastic.  Ryan has gotten used to headlining – he was focused on managing his time and comically finished nine minutes early after a spectacular grand finale of “Shakedown on 9th Street.”  Ryan came sheepishly back on stage and announced he had the perfect song to fill the time: “Magnolia Mountain.”  He shrunk the twenty-minute version from St. Paul down to his allotted nine.  The cherry on top was Adams’ shear joy.  He was delightfully playful and our proximity allowed you to see the smile on his face.

My Spotify playlist is a more accurate set list of the Palace show than the photo of the set list Ryan tweeted below. Also is a playlist from Lolla.

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From → Music Reviews

3 Comments
  1. I have some catch up to do with Ryan. i turned my son, Big Earl onto Whiskytown and early Ryan (Wilco also) He has since passed me by and knows all the current stuff.

    Well I’m all caught up on catchgroove. Thanks for turning me onto so much good new and old music(and the odd movie). I follow a few stations and yours is one of them. You hooked CB a long time ago so you are stuck with now. So get cracking, I’m waiting.

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