But just as Kitchen Nightmares chef Gordon Ramsay doesn’t allow a restaurant with a skilled cook to get away with poor service and dirty kitchens, there’s no reason why critics nor fans alike should give Adams’ passable songwriting a fair shake when he acts like a pretentious, disingenuous prick to them at live shows. Fortunately, during Adams’ Landmark gig, for which fans had paid $36 to witness his blase visage, the prima donna kept his gaffes at a low boil.
The 33-year-old, North Carolina native has been called out in nearly every review written about him for having poor manners on stage, for having wasted his audience’s time with temper tantrums (especially during two particularly bad Minneapolis shows in 2003 and 2007, according to reviews in multiple publications) and for having kicked out concert goers who shouted their requests. Adams has also been known to get particularly pissed when fans yell out their death wish/request for “Summer of 1969,” a song written by Bryan Adams. (Ironically, the two share the same birthday, Nov. 5, although Bryan is age 59.) The North Carolinian, having been dubbed David Ryan Adams at birth, seems to have called that trouble upon himself by dropping his proper moniker.
To his credit, Adams demonstrated in Syracuse to have finally come into awareness of his foolishness. “Everybody hates when I talk at shows, because some people think I’m reality-challenged,” Adams explained. He went on to say that he doesn’t allow people outside of the holy coterie involved with the production of his show backstage because, as Adams deadpanned, “I’m unstable.”
And what music did cut through his nearly deafening legacy of moodiness, as well as through his disenchanted air of arrogance, was decent. Kicking off a set meant to promote Cardinology (Lost Highway), Adams opened with “Cobwebs,” a song that calls out for mental assistance regarding the foggy state of the songwriter’s recently sober psyche. But Adams quickly reverted to his “solo” material (the artist has bounced in and out of bands, including Whiskeytown and Patty Duke Syndrome since the beginning of his career) during “Two,” a track off Easy Tiger (Lost Highway), one of the more critically acclaimed albums of Adams’ career.
Lead guitarist Neal Casal demonstrated his multi-instrumental skill on “The Sun Also Sets” while pedal steel stylist Jon Graboff, who didn’t help Adams’ pretentious persona in his accountant-like, nerdy vest-and-tie getup, slipped into the role of rhythm player after picking up Casal’s Les Paul. During that and other songs, Adams’ band—including Brad Pemberton’s percussion work, which should be damned with faint praise, and Chris Feinstein’s standard bass lines—provided a quaint, pastel backdrop for Adams’ occasionally colorful songwriting.
In the spirit of full disclosure, out of sheer boredom and a bad taste left in this reviewer’s mouth I did what Adams himself has done during some of his own performances: I walked out halfway through. Like members of any established religion, fans of Adams won’t be swayed by an outsider’s take, yet at face value he seems far more hype than substance, and without the histrionics of an on-stage meltdown at the Landmark, there wasn’t much to witness in the first place.
By the way, there’s a reason why no photograph of Adams is accompanying this review. As has become an increasingly common policy dictated by the publicists who serve as liaisons for musicians, Adams’ management asked New Times photographer Michael Davis, as well as other media outlets, to sign a waiver prior to the concert that would have given the ownership of the copyright for his photos to Adams himself. Photographers have often refused to sign such a waiver, a decision the Syracuse New Times fully supports. Just as artists who demand respect for their intellectual property should be outraged when their rights are violated, members of the media will continue to be outraged when artists and their publicists bully photographers into waiving their own rights. Shame on publicists who think that such policies are acceptable, and shame on artists for condoning the theft of the rights of photographers.