You know it’s a good sign when Ryan Adams can laugh at the sign that greeted him on the front door of Hi-Fi Records in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday.
Toward the end of his near-perfect set Saturday night at the Basilica Block Party – on the church stage just a couple hundred yards across Hennepin Avenue from Hi-Fi – Adams smilingly regaled the crowd with a story about his trip over to Loring Park to do a little skateboarding before his set. He said he “naturally gravitated” to the record store there. It was such a natural instinct for him, in fact, that the store rightfully predicted there was a chance he would show up, and it hung up a note to greet him.
“No Ryan Adams admittance,” the hand-scrawled sign read, “unless he’s in a good mood.”
“I took a picture of it,” Adams told the crowd to laughter.
Jon Clifford, owner of the store and adjoining Hi-Fi Hair, said, “It was all in good humor.” Clifford knew Adams is an avid record collector, and he actually would’ve loved to have him in the store. He believes the alt-country vet showed up after the store closed at 5 p.m., though. Upon learning the singer laughed it off on stage, Clifford proposed, “I guess that leaves an in-store on the table for the next time he’s in town.”
Not only was Adams, 41, in a good mood Saturday, he was in top form. It might be time for Twin Cities fans to finally forgive the prodigal North Carolina native for his handful of tumultuous and temper-tainted local gigs of the past 20 years. Saturday’s church gig followed a string of consistently improved showings, and this one would rank among his all-time best.
Either a catalyst for or result of Adams’ newfound focus, his new-ish band the Shining truly did shine alongside its bandleader. The band includes guitarist Mike Viola, who co-produced Adams’ 2014 eponymous album, and keyboardist Daniel Clarke, a longtime collaborator of Adams’ ex-wife Mandy Moore.
They steamrolled through the rocky opening songs “Trouble” and “Gimme Something Good” – both off that 2014 record – before turning more elegant and plush in two of Adams’ best-loved early-‘00s classics, “New York, New York” and “When the Stars Go Blue.” That ability to switch gears seemed to be a license for Adams to go to the extreme in both the mellowest and rowdiest cases: He delivered “Sweet Carolina,” “Dear Chicago” and the golden encore pick “Come Pick Me Up” with gushing tenderness but also turned fiery and semi-jammy in the climactic versions of “Cold Roses” and “Peaceful Valley” near show’s end.
A rather telling moment came midway through the set when Adams started to tell what probably was going to be a long story to introduce “This House Is Not for Sale,” but then stopped himself. “Well, whatever,” he said, and launched straight into the song. He did plenty of talking, just a lot less rambling between songs, including a funny bit before “Stay With Me” about how both he and Metallica openly copped riffs from Bryan Adams’ album “Restless.”
Most humorous of all, Adams quipped before the encore – without actually looking back at the church’s prominent statue of Father Hennepin -- “Sometimes on stage, I get the feeling there’s an ominous figure looming behind me.” The old padre wasn’t the shadow that loomed tallest in his case, but at least Adams did get out from under that one.
Here’s the set list he and the Shining delivered for the sizable and appreciative Basilica crowd:
- · Trouble
- · Gimme Something Good
- · New York, New York
- · When the Stars Go Blue
- · Shakedown on 9th Street
- · Oh My Sweet Carolina
- · Let It Ride
- · Everybody Knows
- · This House Is Not for Sale
- · Stay With Me
- · Dear Chicago
- · Magnolia Mountain
- · Kim
- · I Just Might
- · Cold Roses
- · Peaceful Valley
- · ENCORE: Come Pick Me Up