“It takes two, when it used to only take one,” Ryan Adams sang midway through his two-hour set Friday, a line that could sum up his weekend in St. Paul.
The unpredictable, easily riled Americana rocker settled into the Palace Theatre for the first of two sold-out shows, continuing with tonight’s 8 p.m. concert at the refurbished historic venue. Twin Cities fans asked for the twofer: Demand for Saturday’s gig was so swift, the Palace’s operators at Adams’ old stomping ground First Avenue quickly added the Friday date.
It appears all has been forgiven for Adams, who put on some unforgettably erratic and unstable shows in the 2000s, including a State Theatre performance where he walked off stage and a First Ave set that ended with him whining, “All I wanna do is go home for Christmas.” He has been consistently reliable in recent years, though, including a redemptive showing last summer at the Basilica Block Party. Friday’s two-hour show continued that trend of dependability, even as the North Carolina-bred songwriter offered quite a wild mix musically.
After classic ‘80s metal tunes blared over the speakers between opening act Jillian Jacqueline and the headliner’s set, Adams took the stage sounding like he wanted to start his own version of Skid Row. He even donned a Flying V-style guitar as he burned his way through the opening tunes “Gimme Something Good” and “Do You Still Love Me?”
His and sideman Todd Winebaker's guitars seemed to be cranked to 11 most of the night, the levels actually quite uncomfortable up in the balcony. Behind them stood a pyramid of old TVs that looked like something out of a '80s hair band's low-rent MTV video. They continued to tear their way through the set at full volume, even turning the sweet old twanger “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” into a grungy, almost Supersuckers-like blues-rock jam.
The crowd got a little lost in the noisy fray. Adams won fans back as he mellowed out for “Two” and then reworked another of his older favorites, “When the Stars Go Blue,” into a moody, Cure-style atmospheric rocker bathed in spiraling blue lights from a giant disco ball. But then he lost them again as he turned a montage of tunes off 2005’s “Cold Roses” album into what seemed like a tryout for John Mayer’s job in the next Dead & Co. tour.
The energy ebbed and flowed from there. An acoustic but sped-up rendering of “My Winding Wheel” drew loud applause, but then things dragged considerably during the downbeat rockers “Am I Safe” and “Prisoner,” the latter the title track of Adams’ latest album. A rowdy and quite thrilling “Shakedown on 9th Street” ended the set before an encore fueled by recent deeper cuts.
Atypical to most of his prior shows, Adams talked very little between songs and only stopped to catch his breath a few times amid the bluster. He even made light of his need to cool off mid-show, strumming an improvised, charmingly self-effacing tune with lines like, “This is when I used to pretend to tune my guitar so I could catch my breath.” He also recounted his failed attempt to jog through downtown earlier that day: “I caught every red light on the way.” For the most part, though, he found his groove on stage at the Palace.
Here’s the set list from Friday:
Gimme Something Good
Do You Still Love Me?
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Stay With Me
Anything I Say to You Now
When the Stars Go Blue
New York, New York
Let It Ride
My Winding Wheel
I Just Might
Am I Safe
To Be Without You
Shakedown on 9th Street
I See Monsters
Do I Wait