A very timely gig, this, after a tough day. An enthusiastic Tim had picked us up at 10 past 6 (!), so we hit the venue early and got a good viewing spot on the bar balcony, behind a guy with crutches who was sat on a stool. Result!
Jesse Malin was on at 8.30; Malin, owner of the NYC bar at which Tim and co. welcomed in the New Year (!!), is a Queens-based old punk rocker weaned on his town's Ramones, who switched from playing aimless punk rock with D-Generation to a more introspective, alt-Country torch music solo style. His nasal vocal tones were complemented by a fat acoustic and keyboard embellishments, but I liked his relaxed Noo Yawk Citeh between-song banter more than I liked his material. A full band accompaniment, featuring a suspicious-looking drummer, ended the set on an upbeat note.
Ryan Adams, who I've only recently "discovered", kept us waiting and wondering until 10. Even Tim, a long-time fan and first-time viewer, had no idea what to expect from this chameleonic NYC maverick. in the end, we got it all - and more besides... Adams, a skinny figure sporting a Dennis the Menace jumper and a shock of ginger hair (yes, he was the drummer in the Jesse Malin band!) ambled onstage and, after a bleak solo opener, was joined by his band for the soaring, anthemic newie "So Alive", an early Single Of The Year contender for me, with Adams howling the hook like a rabid dog. Great stuff! Thereafter followed a set of three halves, as it were; the first part drew from the critically panned but thrilling new "Rock N Roll" CD, all primal energy and raw, Stones/ Iggy like licks, with "1974" a highlight. Then, Adams harked back to his dusty alt-Country past with Whiskeytown, with brooding solo ballads sung with the yearning tones of a Jeff Buckley-esque voice, haunting and elegiac. This morphed into the more commercial country-pop closing section, via a stripped-back version of best-known number "New York, New York". Always fascinating, passionate and supremely talented, this was the edgy sound of a man torn between musical styles, yet unwilling to compromise in the balancing process.
Rach and I popped into the lobby after the set, chatting briefly with Jesse Malin and hanging out with Mark and Charlotte as Adam's encore went on... and on... and on! Seemed as though the previously monosyllabic between-song Adams found his voice, and started rambling on about, amongst other things, wanting to become a plumber again! Weird, but very talented.