The humidity. Our love of pork products. The regressive tax structure. Perhaps we just don't buy enough Mandy Moore records.
Whatever reasons Ryan Adams may have for not liking the Bluff City, the alt country superstar delivered his second straight lackluster concert here Wednesday night at the new Minglewood Hall in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,500.
Known for his testy and erratic behavior, even since giving up drugs and alcohol three years ago, Adams has a history of iffy shows here. The singer's 2004 appearance at the New Daisy was remarkable for his on stage temper tantrum. And when he played the Germantown Performing Arts Center in 2007, his well rendered-but-short set was marred by his refusal to say a single word to the audience and a queer decision not to play an encore despite the crowd's clamoring for more.
Wednesday's show continued in that tradition. Performing without an opening act, Adams and his band the Cardinals played just under two hours with an "intermission," really a break called by Adams over sound issues with his in-ear monitor and possibly related to his recently announced development of hearing loss due to Ménière's disease. In all the performance was roughly half as long as recent appearances in Louisville and Nashville and once again Adams, obscured throughout in a dark blue light, barely interacted with the crowd.
Musically, the performance was unexceptional; a journeyman-like recitation of mostly mid-tempo country rockers that neither inspired nor much entertained. The show started out with a quick, cursory rundown of songs like "Let It Ride" and "Two." By the middle of the set, however, Adams, who in recent years has befriend Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, began to express his inner Deadhead. "Goodnight Rose" in particular was transformed by noodling, Jerry Garcia-style guitar work and a meandering mid-section jam that failed to go anywhere.
After the break, the band came back with much more energy, making game stabs at 'Everybody Knows," "Come Pick Me Up" (easily the best known song of the night) and "Shakedown on 9th Street." But it was all in vain as Adams abruptly called it a night -- with no encore -- following the undistinguished "Magick" from the group's most recent album, Cardinology.
The show was all the more disappointing because it may well be one of the undeniably talented singer-songwriter's last. Adams recently announced his plans to quit the Cardinals following their Friday date in Atlanta and hinted he may be stepping back from music altogether to focus on other aspects of his life, including his surprising wedding last week to pop princess Mandy Moore. He also has a budding career as an author following the publication of his poetry/short story collection "Infinity Blues" and the upcoming novel "Hello Sunshine."
Of course, Adams has been known to make such impetuous announcements before, but if it turns out to be true this time, it's a shame his Memphis fans won't have a more memorable performance to remember him by.