With a new album in the pipeline, alt-country's slightly bonkers hero teaches America how to holiday in style
It’s Independence Day and Ryan Adams is rolling around on the Battery Park grass in playful disorder. This free concert is his first headlining performance since he completed his third solo album, the tentatively titled ‘Love Is Hell’, and Goddamnit if he’s not going to have some fun. Picking himself up off the ground, he adjusts his jeans and t-shirt, leaps onstage and greets his fans with typical Andrew WK-style enthusiasm: “I fucking love living here! It’s the best place on earth!”
He kicks off with the high energy ‘Firecracker’, leading on to other songs, like the occasion-appropriate ‘New York, New York’, which get people singing along despite the camel-killing heat. Then things turn a little weird. It’s not every day your favourite alt-country troubadour dedicates songs to H20, but Adams is never one to shy away from a little eccentricity. “I love you water,” he professes to the crowd. “When I’m lonely I look at you and go, ‘You don’t have to talk baby, I understand you. When I put you in my body you feel all good and cold. You make me live and shit, and we can only get you on one planet… so far.’” Encore numbers include impromptu songs about, erm, cheese and his own ego (“This is my favourite song I’ve written… about myself”). But things are restored to relative sanity for the final song, when support act Jesse Malin adds gritty lead vocals to a rousing cover of the Stones’ ‘Happy’.
As the lengthy set of alt-country goodness draws to a close, there’s only one question left to ask: “Could it get any more American than spending a national holiday with an alcoholic pothead?” Surely not.