Ryan Adams Brings the Raw Heartbreak of PRISONER to a Sold-Out Show at Fingerprints


Photo by Brett Bixby. All other photos by Peter W. Gacek.

Ryan Adams appeared before last night’s sold-out crowd without introduction, kitted out in his usual worn Slayer T-shirt and a red buffalo plaid. The Grammy nominated performer addressed the crowd with a joke that he beat his Waze app by 15 minutes and began requesting DVDs from the used-DVD wall to prop his phone so he could stream the performance to his fans.

For anyone familiar with Ryan’s concerts this is the laid back repartee that is routine for a Ryan Adams show. Once settled, Ryan opened with an unplugged rendition of “Do You Still Love Me?” the title track off his latest album, as the crowd watched with a palpable anticipation.

Adams’ visit to Fingerprints follows days after the release of his 17th solo album Prisoner, which came out this past Friday. While the new album is layered in uplifting melodies and heartbreaking lyrics that feel comfortable in the vein of Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, fans were treated to a solo acoustic performance featuring nine tracks from his latest effort.

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Those in attendance were treated to a 45-minute set comprised of songs about longing and introspection, interspersed with Adams’s light-hearted and amusing banter. Even with some of the heavier themes from Prisoner, the mood never felt melancholy as each song was usually followed by a quip or witticism.

Before launching into the evocative “Breakdown” on his 12-string, Adams admonished society’s relationship to technology, remarking, “Remember in Terminator where they fight Skynet… like we’re not really fighting it.” Despite Ryan’s gibe, the absence of glowing screens among the captivated crowd was evident as most in attendance remained focused and unwavering on the genre-bending performer.

Apparently jet-lagged, Ryan played effortlessly through songs like “To Be Without You” and “We Disappear” with all of the primal sincerity of the source material. The only thing that matched the purity of his haunting vocals was his harmonica playing on an intimate version of “Doomsday,” each note bouncing off the brick of the East Village record store with the resonance normally reserved for a church.

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As the show drew to an end, he closed out the night with an encore version of “Tightrope.” In typical Ryan Adams fashion, he performed his “encore” without having ever left the stage from the previous song.

When Fingerprints owner Rand Foster was asked before the show if he had any specific reason for having Adams at the record store, he responded with a titter, “We love Ryan… It’s taken 17 years, I always knew he’d make a great in-store performance.”

It didn’t seem like anyone in attendance at Fingerprints last night would disagree.

Ryan Adams will perform next at Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard this Wednesday, February 22. Tickets go on sale Friday for his June 3rd show at The Greek Theater. Prisoner is out on Pax Am records and can be purchased on CD or vinyl at Fingerprints Music.

Fingerprints Music is located at 420 East 4th Street. 

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.