Ryan Adams – Brady Music Center
yan Adams took a seat on a stage lit only with household lamps, no stage lights whatsoever. Not only were there no stage lights, but there were also no concessions being sold in the performance room of the venue, with drinks only being available at bars on the concourses and hallways. While it was undoubtedly done to minimize the effects of his Meniere's disease, which can be exacerbated by bright and flashing lights.
The lack of extraneous lights and commotion did create a very intimate atmosphere as Adams set off on a 36-song, 3-hour odyssey that included songs from throughout his career, a tongue-in-cheek cover of Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69.” The set also had crowd favorites “My Winding Wheel,” “New York, New York,” and “Come Pick Me Up,” as well as earnest covers of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone,” Bob Mould’s “Black Sheets of Rain,” Alice In Chains’ “Down In A Hole,” and Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.” Throughout the set, the charm that made him a critical darling for years and the toxicity he is well known for were on display as he told stories and harangued concertgoers whose cameras flashed.
Sober now for more than a year, Adams’ voice sounded better than I’ve ever heard live. Objectively speaking, it was a good show, but it would be impossible to review a Ryan Adams show without addressing the elephant in the room. In 2019 the New York Times published an article detailing sexual misconduct allegations from several women. Since the allegations, Adams offered only the most anemic of apologies and has avoided addressing them almost entirely. It had not exactly been a secret that Adams could be difficult. However, these accusations felt different. As a fan, I struggled to reconcile my love of his music with these allegations of sexual misconduct. Could I separate the art from the artist? Did I even want to?
I stopped listening to his music, not just because I didn’t want to support an alleged serial abuser, but because the lyrics were harder to make sense of in the current context. What always set Adams apart for me was his songwriting, but listening to sad songs about unrequited love sung by a man who allegedly dangled success in front of women to manipulate them feels wrong. So, here I sit at this concert, attempting to reconcile my allyship in the fight against misogyny with my love for the music of a man accused of horrible acts.
I’m not anti-woke or anti-cancellation. Quite the contrary. I believe that people should experience the consequences of their actions and that the “Me Too” movement was a long overdue move toward equity, especially in the entertainment industry. The difficult question for me is whether or not an artist (or any person, for that matter) is redeemable. Artists like Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Jimmy Page have weathered accusations with their legacies only minimally tarnished as their songs are regularly listened to without a second thought. Listening to Adams’s lyrics through the lens of the past few years, I no longer see him as the lonely victim of unrequited love he often paints himself as, but as a man with no one to blame for his loneliness but himself.
Does that mean I can listen to his music again with a clear conscience? I’m still not so sure. It still feels weird.
What’s clear to me is that after nearly 3 years of not listening to his music, my love for the songs has not diminished, even if my feelings toward the man are more complicated.
I love Ryan Adams and have for so long, 20+ years. The 2019 article stung so much. I’m a female and always deemed myself a feminist. I’m pro woke but cancel culture is a harder pill to swallow. The latter due to human beings being imperfect by design. Calling out bad behavior yes but not allowing someone to redeem themselves is cruel. We can learn and do better but only if given the opportunity.
I just recently dug into everything on the article and really believe Ryan didn’t get a fair shake at all. The teenage sexting being the most damning and the woman admitted to leading on as if she were older. She lied. The NYT’s never followed the story up and the damage was done.
The other stories of abuse are vague at best. All pointing to Ryan definitely being an asshole but that wasn’t news to anyone. Who in relationships hasn’t done/said things they wish they hadn’t? These were relationships and all participants had the opportunity to walk away. And the relationships all sounded to be rooted in a transactional cycle. If Ryan dangled fame, the women stuck around seemingly for him to deliver.
Mandy Moore actually upsets me the most. A bad marriage but allowing your sense of self to be removed sounds like a you problem. She had industry friends or acquaintances but couldn’t make music because of Ryan? Why? Again, this sounds like a bad marriage. Not abuse.
This is the danger – we need to properly identify these differences. Bad behavior isn’t always abuse. This guy lost a lot and all because of an article that did it even really call out what his sins were.