Ryan Adams, Green Man Festival 2017 (Review)

When it comes to live music I have quite a strict criteria that needs to be met to satisfy my pedantic needs: how far I am from the stage, the quality of the sound, the setlist, the crowd, the venue, who I am there with, and most importantly…the performance itself. I can say without hesitation that Ryan Adams’ headline set at Green Man festival ticked every box.   

Green Man is a peaceful, laid back festival with plenty of diverse music and entertainment, and it’s not surprising that it sold out its 20,000 capacity once again this year. The festival is located in the heart of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, a truly beautiful setting to watch live music in. With a natural amphitheatre and the Black Mountains in the backdrop, the Mountain Stage is a stunning, unique and cosy venue which made for a more enjoyable experience.

Ryan Adams has so far had a busy 2017, promoting and releasing his sixteenth studio album Prisoner in February and subsequently touring the album up until now. However, his only UK festival appearance this year was the headline slot at Green Man, and knowing this prior to the show made the build up that bit more exciting.

Everything leading up to Ryan Adams’ set was perfect – the surroundings were fantastic, the crowd was friendly, the forecasted rain held out, and I managed to get front and centre with no difficulty; all that was left was for Ryan Adams to deliver a great performance…which he most certainly did. From the moment he walked out on stage with the Unknown Band to the end of his closing song, Halloweenhead, Ryan’s set exceeded all expectations. The sound was incredible, the band were tight, the setup looked amazing, and the setlist was a perfect balance of old and new.

Over the past few years Ryan has been writing and recording music at his Pax-AM studio in LA, and has perfected a distinctive sound that can be heard not only in the music he’s released – self-titled album, 1989, Prisoner etc. – but also in his live performances. This really showed at Green Man and I felt it worked best on Dear Chicago, which was played full band with clean electric guitars rather than as an acoustic number, and Heartbreaker’s To Be Young, which was originally recorded in a more country style. It’s clear that he feels comfortable performing with the Unknown Band, and despite changing some of the songs to fit the Pax-AM style, he’s having a lot of fun – despite going through a painful divorce last year – and preserving the essence of the songs in the process.

For the first time in a very long time, I left a show feeling overwhelmed. It’s a surreal feeling seeing an idol live up to all expectations, and to experience it at such a fantastic festival was a bonus.


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