An out-of-sorts night became something magical for Ryan Adams: He and his band, the Cardinals, managed to turn a disjointed show into one of the finest collection of performances one is likely to encounter on a rock ‘n’ roll stage. He violated, as he has for years, a number of rules laid out in Concert Performance 101 — no spotlight, aimless chit-chat, abrupt segues — and yet over the course of 2½ hours, each song was delivered with impeccable sharpness at every level.
At Royce, in support of his solid, return-to-form effort from last year, “Easy Tiger” (Lost Highway), Adams continued to play in the style he’s displayed at the Wiltern and House of Blues. There’s not much looking at the audience, many of the songs are played in the dark, and the timbral qualities associated with a recording often dissipate into a group sound that favors the jagged edges of early 1970s rock by bands such as the Faces and the Rolling Stones.
“Easy Tiger” bears the influence of the other side of that early ’70s scene, the back-to-the-land movement favored by Neil Young and the Eagles in which country touches stroke burnished edges. Lyrically, he’s taken the perspective of a supportive and honest lover (chalk one up to sobriety?). It’s a new tactic for Adams, who has long been a master of chronicling heartbreak.
The five songs from “Easy Tiger” that made it into Wednesday’s set were pushed into a rougher neighborhood; Adams’ sensibilities rest with Young’s “After the Gold Rush” on record yet in concert skew toward “Tonight’s the Night.” The alterations made for compelling, dark versions of “Easy Tiger’s” “Goodnight Rose” and “Rip Off”; older tunes “Mockingbird” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” were among the night’s standouts, the former stretched in a slow smoldering jam between Adams and guitarist Neal Casal, the latter given a pure and untarnished sweetness in the reading.
Show was the penultimate date on a tour that took Adams across the country in October and November and along the West Coast in January.