Ten Songs From Live at Carneige Hall sees Ryan Adams, one of the greatest talents of his generation, at his most naked and vulnerable. Armed only with a guitar, a piano, and his voice, Adams turns his stunningly perceptive gaze inward, tearing deeper and deeper into himself. The result is more than just a live album: it’s an incredibly powerful self-portrait, delivered with skill, unparalleled musicianship, wry humour, and a breath-taking amount of heart.
The album’s condensed set list covers all of the bases. Fans of Adams’ early work are treated with a heart-wrenching performance of Oh My Sweet Carolina, a song that has lost none of its power and tragedy over the years. Indeed, it’s one of the album’s many highlights; the way Adams sings the line ‘I ain’t never been to Vegas but I’ve gambled up my life’ moves as much now as it did fifteen years ago, and its razor sharp harmonica solo still slices to the bone.
Adams’ recent self-titled record is also well represented; though My Wrecking Ball sounds much like it does on the album, it still impresses, and a subtly powerful version of Kim shows off Adams’ gut-punch powerful vocal range. Of all the recent tunes, however, it is Gimme Something Good that truly slays. By stripping the song down, Adams reveals its plaintive, desperate heart; the song feels more like a plea than anything else, and each time the chorus repeats, the words are imbued with power, becoming like the mantra of the lost.
Ten Songs contains enough banter to satiate those who have never had the pleasure of seeing Adams live, but not so much as to derail the proceedings. The singer songwriter has been branded unfairly with the ‘difficult artist’ label, thanks largely due to lazy journalists trying to write a story of the man’s life that doesn’t match up to reality, but on Ten Songs Adams comes across as profoundly humble. “I would assume like, 86% of you are on Paxils” Adams says at one point. “You’re at a fucking Ryan Adams show.”
Perhaps most essentially, at no point does Ten Songs feel like a lazy cash grab. This isn’t glorified merchandise posing as a record; it is a stunning entrance into the world of a unparalleled performer. It’s the most necessary live album to be released in a very, very long time, and not only a must have for Adams fans, but for those unacquainted with this singularly talented individual as well.