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Review: Ryan Adams and The Shining at Wellington Opera House

Friday 17th July 2015

Ryan Adams.

Ryan Adams and his band The Shining delivered an awe-inspiring show at the Wellington Opera House last night, concluding the New Zealand leg of his tour.

The stage, which was set with Dr Pepper insignia, arcade game machines and a taxidermy cat, which may or may not have been a nod to Twitter sensation “cemetery cat”, contrasted well with the formality of the gold framed Opera House stage.

Tiny Ruins’ Hollie Fullbrook was a fitting opening to the evening, demonstrating her deep Nico-toned, jazzy vocal talent and fingerpicking skills. Fullbrook’s warm voice was well played off against occasional bursts of staccato guitar plucking. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the music she creates, which can be goose bump inducing.

Ryan Adams and The Shining exploded onto the stage with a passionate punky rendition of his self-titled album single ‘Gimme Something Good’, giving the song a completely different persona, and making for an enlivening introduction.

Adams has a hypnotic stage presence and a wonderfully expressive voice that seems to embrace or accost the listener at different times for effect. Also excellent were his guitar solos, which often saw him bend as horizontally as a limbo dancer, as he unleashed spurts of bluesy soul shaking goodness.

Cutting down heckles for song requests, Adams quipped “Part of me didn’t want to play that song because you [asked for it], but that’s the little bit of asshole in me that’s the rock n roll part. You don’t wanna take that away…”

The setlist was a good mixture of soulful and tragic mixed with rugged and rocky. The band seemed to have fun springing from style to style and they had a good, comfortable chemistry, with excellent musicianship.

Drummer Freddie Bokkenheuser played with relentless passion and perfect timing, while guitarist Mike Viola, who “makes a great lasagne”, complimented Adams’ playing with creativity and improvisation. Keyboardist Daniel Clarke and bassist Charlie Stavish added their own unique flair, adding a good balance, while injecting personality into their instruments.

Adams was on form with stage banter, casually coming out with weird and wonderful statements and impromptu observations, from talk about the cosmos to a spoken poem about dishwashers, the army, and Chevrolet cars.

A big hit of the night was ‘Fake Encore’. Poking fun at the over trodden encore convention, Adams teased “We’re not even going to walk off stage and walk back on,” before the band broke into a comedic piece of music, which had a really polished and catchy musical backing.

“When no one cares that you're aware,
It’s raining here in Wellington,
I'm on the street I won't lie - all music is gonna die,
It’s Fake encore, it's not the end of the show
It’s Fake encore, it's not the end of the show, and they know what for, it’s just the fake encore.”

Ending with a ruckus rendition of ‘Come Pick Me Up’, the band created a wonderfully dynamic performance, with country blues and rock n’ roll jumbled together for good measure. It was a musical experience that will not be soon forgotten.

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