Ryan Adams + Karen Elson @ Orpheum Theatre – June 27th 2017

Karen Elson

Karen Elson, model-turned-rock star, was the incredible opener for Tuesday night’s concert. Her quiet demeanor and soft voice stood in stark contrast to Adams’ comically obnoxious behaviour. Despite their extremes in personality, the two artists share a common moodiness in their style. Elson’s tunes, however, are more melancholic with slower beats and an accompanying violinist and harpist to enhance the wistful feel.

Not having heard of Elson, I turned to Google to see what she was all about. Word to the wise: listening to her studio album on YouTube just does not do her justice. Although her voice is soft, it’s also clear and strong. The melodies are very raw and dark; she jokingly noted “I sing really happy songs, here’s another uplifting one.”

Her sound is right up my alley: the darkness in the instrumentals along with the lightness of her voice is a juxtaposition I very much enjoy. Although her sound may not be for everyone, one listen is all you need to see how talented she is. Her music is mesmerizing and her voice is mysterious; everything about her left me wanting more.

Ryan Adams

I don’t even know where to start; Adams’ talent and devil-may-care attitude left me with a lot to discuss. How about – I want to be his best friend! Ryan Adams has a unique sense of humour, and isn’t afraid to let it loose on stage. On several occasions, he poked fun at audience members: one guy most likely regretted whipping out his iPad to take a picture of Adams and another, I’m sure, thought twice about resting his hand on his chin. [Read: don’t show up late to his concert, because he’ll rip you a new one.]

Adams is so bizarre that even the nonsensical stuff he says is funny as all hell. He has no problem letting his freak flag fly, as evidenced by his choice of stage decor (several large stuffed animals) and emcee (some guy in a creepy costume, with an evil goat mask). Eloquently summing up the general feel of the night, he at one point said, “This is a very awkward date we’re on tonight, isn’t it?”

While Adams is currently touring in support of his newest album, Prisoner (2017), his set list spanned his extensive career, including crowd favourites “Gimme Something Good” and “Come Pick Me Up.” Although I was a little disappointed he didn’t play my favourite song, “Desire,” I did discover a new one: “When The Stars Go Blue.” Blue lights danced across the Orpheum as Adams sang, it was magical.

About halfway through the concert, Adams’ band left the stage. He walked to a second mike in the front and sang for five minutes, improv style – it was outstanding. He sang about his hand breaking halfway through a previous show, how Toronto and Vancouver don’t get along, George Lucas and the Star Wars saga, and a woman in the crowd who was dancing oddly.

The wonderful thing about Adams (aside from his impeccable improv of course) is that he’s so dynamic; melding elements of alternative country, rock, folk, and punk, sometimes even within the same song. It’s nice to hear that Adams is still experimenting, not wanting to be defined by one particular genre.

The night was incredible, and one I will not forget. Ryan Adams, please come back to Vancouver soon, I want another awkward date.

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