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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ryan Adams blows away the rain and more highlights from Jazz Fest's first Saturday

Posted By on Sat, Apr 25, 2015 at 8:50 PM

click to enlarge Ryan Adams.
  • Ryan Adams.

It was appropriate that the end of one of the worst weather days at Jazz Fest ended with black metal. After an hourlong sideways downpour, looming dark clouds, and whipping winds that made some parts of the New Orleans Fairgrounds feel like a wind tunnel (with everyone's weather gear and flagpoles dramatically flapping in the wind's wake), the sun showed its face as it set, during Ryan Adams' high voltage rock 'n' roll on the Gentilly Stage — and just moments before his goofy "black metal" version of Whiskeytown's "16 Days."

Before that, Adams — standing in front of some set dressing that included two arcade games and two cartoonishly oversized amplifiers (just the facade for the still-very-large speakers behind them) — launched into nearly two hours of his heartfelt, neo-heartland rock 'n' roll. Opening with new album cut "Gimme Something Good" and winding through songs like the New Orleans-penned "Dirty Rain" and New Orleans-recorded "Love Is Hell," the Tom Petty jangle-pop of "Stay With Me," and the jubilant, manic love letter "New York New York," just before which Adams acknowledged the sun making an appearance: "There it is! There's the fucking sun!"

Adams teased out his two-hour set, which he anticipated ending 30 minutes early until a stagehand mentioned he had plenty of time left before the 7 p.m. cutoff. Adams and his on-point band — fleshed out with pitch percent harmonies, a thick organ and second, equally jangle-filled guitar — also dug into Adams' one-off Replacements-esque punk EP and delivered much-needed volume into the festival after a wet afternoon. As he closed his set, he improvised a serenade to a baby in the crowd in baby speak and praised the black metal band Immortal, which he dubbed the most athletic of musicians, after he attempted 30 seconds of their speed and shrieking vocals.

On the Fais Do Do Stage, South Carolina alt-country lovebirds Shovels & Rope tried to shake off the rain with their impressive and loose duo, trading off guitar and drums (while also playing percussion and a keyboard). The band dug into songs from their acclaimed 2013 album O' Be Joyful and its decidedly darker, appropriately water-filled 2014 follow-up Swimmin' Time. Cary Ann Hearst hit solid highs with an electric grin and wild head of hair, while Michael Trent — permanently sunglassed — complemented Hearst's growl with his low-key roars. The band's breakout hit "Birmingham" — during which fans erupted in cheers at the song's mention of "making something out of nothing with a scratch and a hoe / with two old guitars like a shovel and a rope" — toned down to a near-dirge as the grey skies loomed.

The much-hyped reunion of sorts with New Orleans rapper Juvenile and Mannie Fresh was more of a party and a chance to reintroduce Juve to his hometown crowd as he bounced through several of his now-classic New Orleans hip-hop tracks, from a killer a cappella end half of "Ha" to the ridiculous fun of "Back That Azz Up," which he attempted to self-censor to the radio- and TV-friendly version. He joked, after all, there are children in the audience. The former Cash Money Hot Boy also mentioned he's put on some pounds: "I'm a hot potato." Juvenile also performed hits like "Slow Motion," "Set It Off" and "Ya Understand" before bringing super-producer and affable hip-hop hero Fresh to the stage.

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