Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams recently appeared on Late Show with David Letterman and played “Gimme Something Good,” the single from his new self-titled album. He and his terrific four-piece band knocked out such a vigorous version of the song that Letterman appeared dumbfounded and even made the group launch into a reprise that segued into the commercial break. For the most part, that energy translated to the State Theatre stage last night where Adams played a two-hour set. Channeling Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Band, Adams and co. sounded particularly sharp, suggesting that Adams, who regularly changes lineups, might want to stick with these guys a little longer.
After Adams opened the show with the aforementioned “Gimme Something Good” and then followed it up with the rootsy, mid-tempo “Let It Ride,” hecklers started yelling out for songs from the singer-songwriter’s extensive catalog. “We do have a setlist; we came prepared,” said Adams sarcastically in response to the catcalls. “Don’t you worry.” Throughout the night, the bushy haired, denim-clad singer would shut down hecklers (he was particularly effective at squashing a request for “Free Bird”). For the most part, however, the near-capacity crowd was intensely attentive — during some songs, the crowd was so quiet you would think fans were witnessing a religious ceremony of some sort.
Highlights from the 22-song set included the R.E.M.-like “This House is Not for Sale,” a tune he introduced as an “older song,” and a tender, acoustic version of “New York, New York” that featured Adams on harmonica. Adams effectively slipped into falsetto for “Easy Plateau” and got a little grunge-y on “Kim,” another tune from his new album. He let his backing band cut loose on the set-closing “I See Monsters,” ending the concert without an encore.
Opener Butch Walker didn’t have the benefit of a backing band, but he didn’t suffer because of it. The singer-guitarist debuted several songs from a new studio album that’s due out in 2015 and won the crowd over with personal stories about his childhood and his late father who inspired many of the songs on his forthcoming album. He effectively veered from folky ballads to edgy alternative rock during a 40-minute set.