Ulster Hall, Belfast
8th September 2017

One never really knows what you’ll get at a Ryan Adams gig. The man is considered a little bit too rock ‘n’ roll to be country and a little too alt-country to be rock ‘n’ roll.

Perhaps that’s part of the appeal to his legion of fans but tonight a capacity audience in the Ulster Hall is left in little doubt. Tonight we have Ryan the rock star.

Right on time, Ryan walks on stage, clad in denim head to toe. The hastily discarded jacket reveals a further clue for the direction of the night with his black Motorhead t-shirt as the band launch into the recent single ‘Do You Still Love Me’.

This is Adams at his raucous best; his famous back-bending guitar solos aplenty in a night when he let the music do the talking.

Songs, which on record were hued with a country rhythm, had the guitar turned up, as on fan favourite ‘To Be Young Is To Be Sad’. There was little time to catch one’s breath as the barrage of song and melody flowed from his tight band as one would expect.

With a back catalogue to rival many, he played a mixture of the newer songs from latest album ‘Prisoner’, and old favourites, featuring an edgier but nonetheless beautiful version of ‘When The Stars Go Blue’ with simple but startling lighting effects.

His voice remains a marvel, belting out the rockers but mellowing to an instrument of beauty on the slower songs such as the show stopping ‘Broken Anyway’, which delivers quite an emotional clout.

Adams had given a surprise solo acoustic gig the night before in McHugh’s Bar to a small group of fans who caught the invite at short notice on Twitter.

The power of the music can sometimes mask the regret and longing in the songs, but it is there in spades, as he sings:

Thorn in my side. Pain I can’t hide. Diamonds that won’t shine. Oh, my soul feels like I’m headed for a breakdown.

The sense of pain is palatable. One of his brief chats to the crowd suggests he tried to write a happy song about marshmallows but it just came out wrong.

Twenty-seven songs in over two hours all played with a verve and apace. This was an exhilarating gig which will live long in the memory. I wonder which Ryan Adams we will get next time. Ryan the rocker was most excellent!