‘Exile On Bourbon Street’ Ryan Adams and Friends cover a Stones classic in New Orleans
I would imagine that it’s no easy feat to cover one’s own album, let alone pay homage to someone else’s. Especially one that occupies such hallowed ground.
The album in question: Exile On Main Street, which came out in 1972. It was the Rolling Stones first and only double studio album. It’s a record where myth, legend, and the facts of the times, remain as hazy as the actual basement they recorded in.
The years leading up to its release were chaotic, Mick and Keith busted for drugs. They fired founding member Brian Jones, who later showed up dead at the bottom of a swimming pool. Then replaced him with 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor, previously with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. And despite the recent, chart-topping Sticky Fingers, the band was broke. That due to a disastrous deal signed with manager Allen Klien. With no possible way to pay their back taxes, they fired Klien and fled to the South of France. There, the Stones started recording the core songs (some were plucked from previous sessions, others after leaving France) that would be the heart of Exile. Using their mobile recording unit, they banged out limping, out of tune (the stifling heat reeking havoc on the instruments tunings) versions in progress amid various decadent, outlaw pleasures. What resulted was the musical parts that had become the sum of the Stones oeuvre, early rock, blues, country, and R&B.
The band assembled was fairly impressive, Don Was on bass, Cyril Neville, percussion, John Medeski, organ, and guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, who was quite capable in recreating Mick Taylor’s lead work. Along with back up singers and a full horn section, there was a dozen plus on the stage.
For the most part, it was a faithful interpretation of the original, although some of the songs got a little jammy. It was played in order, only omitting Sweet Black Angel. If you know the song, you know why. If not, Google the lyrics. Neville took the lead vocal on Stop Breaking Down.
There were two notable detours. Rip This Joint, a Little Richard style rocker was reduced to a J.J. Cale style shuffle with a runtime that far exceeded the original 2:33. The coda at times sounded like it was going to morph to the instrumental part of Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. Happy, Keith Richards’ pirate anthem of taking candy from strangers and never wanting a real job sounded like Let It Ride from Adam’s Cold Roses. The effort was there, but the effect fell a little short. The encores were Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, The Worst, and Sway. Ryan has hinted he may release the performance.
Ryan Adams – Red Rocks June 14th
There was a time when a Ryan Adams show could be the best concert you saw that year or crash and burn in epic Replacements-style. But these days with the booze and chemicals behind him, Adams takes the stage with every much the enthusiasm of a fan of rock n’ roll as much as a practitioner. Tonight’s show comes close to 3 hours in length (he was fined for violating Morrison’s curfew laws) and generally covered his entire catalog, although songs from the Whiskeytown days remain elusive.
Ryan and The Unknown Band came out of the chute with Let It Ride, a song later, To Be Young. Gimme Something Good and Stay With Me from the self-titled 2014 record followed. Fix It and Dear John were early high points.
These days, the twang and country pop of earlier tours has leaned more jammy. But think Neil Young and Crazy Horse instead of say, Phish.
And while the Unknown Band played with a purpose during some of the lengthier songs, it was a couple of ballads the captured the capacity crowd’s attention. Openers First Aid Kit came out for a stirring Oh My Sweet Carolina and later Come Pick Me Up. An Adams/First Aid Kit album would no doubt be terrific.
The night ended with Adams, alone at center stage, telling a poignant story about how the death of his brother had affected his ability to perform and dedicated a beautiful Jacksonville to his memory.