The Stagediver: Ryan Adams Acoustic Show @ The Lincoln Theater, Washington, DC

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By Spencer. I wanted to write a review of Ryan Adams’s sold-out acoustic show at DC’s Lincoln Theater. It was probably a fantastic show, and you’d think I’d be more sure of that considering I was there and all. But instead of writing about Ryan Adams, I really have no other option but to write about “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about, because you’ve probably seen him at many a concert yourself. He’s the guy who decides he’s going to dance wildly with his arms flailing around for the entire show, bumping and jostling anyone in a ten-foot radius. He’s the guy who wandered in from the year 1994 to start a mosh pit, when everyone else just wants to listen. He’s the guy who can’t stop checking his cell phone in a darkened room, or the guy who goes for ten beer runs, or the guy who thinks everyone came to hear his voice instead of, you know, the person whose name is on the ticket. And if you were sitting anywhere near Row S, Seat 17, in the upper left balcony last night, you know exactly which guy I’m talking about.

This version of “that guy” was about six feet tall, wearing a pink polo shirt and the kind of ridiculous patterned shorts that could have only been procured at the J. Crew in Georgetown. If you’re looking to form a mental picture, just think of the villain from any 80s comedy: two parts former frat boy; three parts entitled, old money douchebag; with an unswerving belief in his own awesomeness and the balls to hit on every girl in the room—yours included. All he was missing was the popped collar. He and his friends were already sloshed before they even arrived, but one look at this guy and you suspect he’s a problem even sober.

He was a little talkative during the charming opening act, Amanda Shires, apparently taking a few songs to grasp the concept that this was an acoustic show with literally no accompaniment. But it really wasn’t too much of a problem yet; being completely unfamiliar with the artist seems to have lulled him into a bored stupor, much like I imagine a book without pictures or a discussion of the finer points of foreign policy might. In that situation, there’s only one thing that guy can do. Beer run! So by the time Adams took the stage, there was a collection of empty cans under this guy’s seat that would have earned him a small fortune if he could’ve found a way to get them all to Michigan.

Adams kicked off the show with a quiet rendition of “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” and that’s when it all went to hell. You see, “that guy” was here to have a good time. And as you might imagine, a good time requires a lot of “wooing,” loud mid-song clapping, and constantly toasting the stage with a beer can held high above your head. Every time a song ended, he punctuated the last note with an enthusiastic “boom!“—which must be bro-speak for “bravo.” And when Ryan Adams made a passing joke about the DNC festivities up in Philadelphia, the guy shouted, “TRUMP!” Because of course he did.

Sure, this all would be perfectly fine if this were a noisy, standing-room rock show at the 9:30 Club. But this was a seated show at a very old theater featuring an acoustic guitar, a man’s voice, and that’s it. It requires silence from the audience, and virtually everyone else in the room got the memo. “That guy” didn’t.

To be fair, his friends seemed embarrassed and repeatedly tried to quiet him. But those efforts were wasted on a man this drunk and this stupid. Every two minutes, whenever his girlfriend shushed him, he answered (loud and slurred), “I know, I know … sssshhhhhhh,” and then went back to groping her ass and shouting dumb shit.

When conventional methods fail like, you know, asking someone calmly like an adult to quiet down, the true innovators look for a novel solution. And it came courtesy of another of his friends (who we’ll call “Chad,” because he just looked like a fucking Chad). Chad was on that shit, stepping in like a man, taking his obnoxious friend by the arm, and leading him away … to get another beer.

Now I’m as surprised as you, but Chad’s strategy actually backfired. Refueled with delicious, delicious booze, “that guy’s” behavior went from obnoxious to intolerable, and so I finally had to tell him myself to cut the bullshit. Surprisingly, it somewhat worked—at first. He started keeping his voice down, and I started hearing some of the songs for the first time in the evening. We were treated to some sparsely beautiful renditions of Heartbreaker classics like “My Winding Wheel” and a re-imagined darker version of “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High).” His breakthrough song, “New York, New York”—which he rarely plays live—was recast as a contemplative piano ballad. The setlist also drew from Adams’s country material (“Let It Ride,“The End“) and even the upbeat 80s stylings of his more recent work (“Gimme Something Good”). There were a handful of new songs, like the amazing “Tightrope” or the clever “Haunted House,” and because this is DC, there were a couple of ingeniously stripped-down Fugazi covers.

But even Ryan Adams had to spend the night dealing with a “that guy” of his own—a heckler in the second row who, perhaps emboldened by living in a world where every person thinks he has the right to Tweet every passing, half-assed excuse for a thought that pops into his head, decided to turn the night into a personal conversation with Ryan. Adams did his best to deal with the constant interruptions gracefully and with humor, but eventually lost his patience and told him, “I really hope you’re not at my next show. I wanna say respectfully this has been fun but I prefer doing these shows myself.” It was a remarkable show of restraint, and when (naturally) that public shaming didn’t change a thing, Adams said what we were all thinking: “Dude, the reason you’re at a Ryan Adams show and you’re single is because you can’t shut the fuck up.”

Of course, I missed a lot of this, because I was still dealing with my own guy. By now, he’d discovered that in his drunken stupor, he must have dropped his wallet. A grown-up might have looked around a bit and, if unable to find it, just waited until after the set to keep searching. But not that guy. He pulled out his phone and turned on the flashlight setting, then proceeded to search every seat in his row, plus the rows in front of and behind him, for that goddamn wallet. And he kept insisting loudly to his friends that the wallet had $1,000 dollars in it, which either makes him (a) stupid, or (b) a liar—I’ll let him pick which one he prefers. His friends, perhaps exhausted from dealing with him, left before the final song—which in a bit of sweet vindication was Adams’s masterpiece, “Come Pick Me Up.” That guy stumbled out a couple of minutes behind them, and apparently not completely oblivious to our opinion of him, announced to everyone, “Sorry. Have a great night.”

So this review is dedicated to all those guys (and girls) who ruin our concerts and our movies; who make it to where you can’t enjoy a decent meal at a nice restaurant; who make plane flights miserable and generally make you regret ever going into public at all anymore. And who, if you ever have the audacity to call them out on it, act as if you’re the asshole.

Oh, well. At least the guy never found his fucking wallet.

The Setlist:
Oh My Sweet Carolina
My Winding Wheel
Waiting Room (Fugazi Cover)
To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
If I Am A Stranger
New York, New York
Gimme Something Good
Was I Wrong? (New Song)
Let It Ride
The End
To Be Without You (New Song)
Firecracker
I Do Not Feel Like Being Good
Haunted House (New Song)
Ashes & Fire
Tightrope (New Song)
Glenn Tipton (Sun Kil Moon Cover)
Promises (Fugazi Cover)
Everybody Knows
Come Pick Me Up

3 thoughts on “The Stagediver: Ryan Adams Acoustic Show @ The Lincoln Theater, Washington, DC

  1. So sorry you had to deal with that, Spencer, at a show that sounds absolutely lovely. I like Amanda Shires and her new song sounds great. The setlist is solid and glad to hear that the new songs were good too.

    • Amanda Shires was pretty phenomenal. She was almost shy up there — but it gave her an instant likability. And her voice is fantastic. Really looking forward to her new record. It was produced by Dave Cobb, which is a very good sign.

  2. And thus is why I love the asshole side of Jeff Tweedy who will go into the crowd and shiv a mofo who won’t shut up. I have seen him do it.

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