The night The Black Keys were playing a small secret show at Webster Hall the day their Madison Square Garden headlining concert went on sale. The same night, buzz artist Lana Del Rey was at Bowery Ballroom swooning over her sold-out appearance; also it was the night that generations of hip-hop crossed over as Snopp Dogg and Wiz Khalifa were performing together at Terminal 5. While all of these unique events were going on, the one that had the most special presence in New York City was Ryan Adams with a few of his guitars, a piano and a book of songs at a private concert at Ed Sullivan Theater. As part of the amazing, Live on Letterman web series, Adams performed for a handful of lucky contest winners in an exclusive and extremely intimate setting.
As the house lights went down and the announcer ran off the rules of the taping to the audience, the theater doors opened for a person dressed in a dog costume to walk the audience catwalk to the stage. As the crowd laughed and cheered thinking it was Ryan inside the costume, Adams cunningly walked from the stage left door to take his guitar. An immediate hush came across the crowd as if a magician just pulled an unbelievable trick. Adams strapped his harmonica around his neck, grabbed his acoustic and went to work. For one hour, Adams played selections from his massive body of work, mainly focusing on this year’s release, Ashes and Fire. While the audience were so focused as to what he was doing, Adams would toss in funny stories in between songs and showed that he is serious about his music, but does not take himself too seriously. “Imagine seeing KISS in a venue like this? That would be awesome” Adams told the audience as he wondered what it would be like to see one of his favorite bands in a setting like this. For any musician to do a full concert at the famed theater is an experience like no other. Adams told stories about his time on the road alone supporting this tour and joked about how he has KISS pyrotechnics at every other venue but this one. “You know, Letterman has this million dollar sound system and I have a $30 foot peddle that doesn’t work” Adams cracked.
While his stories had the audience laughing as if they were at a stand-up show, as soon as he started playing he brought it back to why they were there. His most applauded moment would come when he would take to his piano and perform a stripped down and subtle version of his massive hit, “New York, New York.” A song that defined New York City in the wake of the September 11 attacks. For the hour that he was on stage performing, joking and story telling Adams proved that the only gig in town worth seeing on such a busy Monday night was his.