Review: Ryan Adams – Invictus Games Closing Ceremony and London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

There are only two people who I’m sure will never break my heart. One is my cat Furball, and the other is Ryan Adams. I have been a massive fan for a long time now. I’ve traveled far and wide, crashed a car, and seen him perform on two continents.

His lyrical geniousity (new word) is what keeps me coming back and his good sense of humour. And for two shows in September in London, both were out in full force.


At the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony (where Prince Harry led us in a wave), Ryan played a 5 song set on a sunny East London afternoon. I felt like I was miles away but was still BURSTING at the seams with excitement at seeing him. He started with Gimme Something Good as he’s been doing all tour. This is a song that has grown on me since its release in the summer and it sounds even better live. Following on with Fix It, the band hit their stride and Ryan was in good spirits despite the hugely ambivalent crowd.

Let It Ride was in the middle of the set, introduced by Ryan as “a song off my 2nd record Sandwich Problems”, with a long and rambling intro that sounded like an actual ferry boat coming down the Cumberland River – truly magical stuff. Imagine the rafts in Huck Finn, coming down the Mississippi through the fog – that’s what the intro to Let It Ride sounded like.


Stay With Me was up next which built up into a perfect chorus of “hold me closer in the middle of the night” and rounding out the set was Am I Safe, also from the new self-titled record. This song didn’t translate as well to the major location, and the Foo Fighters-hungry crowd (they were headlining). But for a 5 song set, Ryan managed to bring out his new material and please long time fans. This was an excellent set list and taster session for his solo show later in the week.

I celebrated my last day of work by seeing Ryan again on Friday, September 19th at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (SBE) in West London. The stage seemed lower and smaller than the last time I went to the SBE which was just fine by me. Despite being one of the first people through the door I didn’t snag a front row spot until half way through the set when someone left. (Sidenote: if you don’t know the band or singer, don’t take up a front row spot!)

Gimme Something Good (this song makes me want to punch the air like I’m the coach in a 1980s high school football movie) and Fix It were the first two songs again, but Ryan shocked everyone by next breaking out This House Is Not For Sale. It brought me back to a time and place I thought I’d forgotten, and I could not believe I was hearing it live. The sound was excellent and the guitars sounded so right.


The remainder of the set list was stellar – Cold Roses, Let It Ride, I Just Might, Everybody Knows, Let Go (“hanging round the wishing well, it’s a slippery slope, and I let go” think that over), the amazing set list literally goes on and on – it was all so good I could not believe I was hearing it. I couldn’t believe these songs were coming out one right after the next.

The crowd was not helping this setlist however, from the front row hogs to the guy next to me who actually lit a cigarette (that’s ILLEGAL here, yo), but that’s not what we remember the show for.


We remember it for the classics Ryan brought out of the storage of our hearts, the new songs that are taking up space in our brains, and the fact that even with Johnny Depp on stage, I still couldn’t take my eyes off Ryan – the excitement of being there was still bursting through me from the previous week’s show.

I truly believe we’re lucky to live in the same time as Ryan Adams. I’d give anything to have met Thomas Wolfe or Dorothy Parker, but if I had a choice to live in the 1920s or be in the same time as Ryan Adams, there would be no contest.


By Liz Kelly @the_unrealcity


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