London Borderline

He is playing a rock'n'roll show, not taking part in high mass...

"Bollocks", shouts onetime Whiskeytown leader Ryan Adams, and a nervous twitch ripples through a section of the crowd. The man who, in a relatively short space of time, has come to be widely pitched as Americana's prince regent sitting expectantly under the heavy three-starred Dylan/Parsons/Springsteen crown, isn't having any of it. While many of the chin-stroking beardy-weardy brigade packed into London's Borderline hush all those around them, tut-tutting when someone breaths out too hard - because this is how the vaunted memory of Bob would have it, you see - Adams recounts how much he likes Oasis. "We don't have anyone like them in the States," he protests to catcalls and general annoyance. "C'mon, they write some great songs." And then he goes and closes with 'Wonderwall'. It's a defining gesture.

The show still fulfils many of the beardy's previously held beliefs. Adams - just a consonant away from mediocrity - sears through tracks from solo debut 'Heartbreaker', with crafted intent. With a guitar and harmonica, a piano and deft self-deprecating wit ("give it some more reverb - it's just a damn protest song"), a voice that echoes the trio mentioned above and also, oddly, John Denver, he details the relationship that shattered his heart. 'Damn, Sam (I Love

A Woman That Rains)', a distant cousin of 'Chelsea Hotel', leaves you stock-still, while any other number lifted from the album - try 'Sweet Lil Gal' or 'Don't Ask For The Water' - do enough to bring a genuine hush without any irritating calls for quiet.

But what Adams knows is that while he owes a debt to his own holy trinity, he is playing a rock'n'roll show, not taking part in high mass. When he mimics a human beatbox in the bridging part of 'Wonderwall' (a cover that brings a whole new set of textures and nuances), it is not to poke fun at Oasis, rather at those around the stage who believe it heresy to admit to liking such a band at all. When he returns soon to rock out completely with a full band, listen for the cries of "Judas" as the beards stream out the door.

Paul McNamee

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