The Ryman never forgets.
It's been more than 12 years since Ryan Adams infamously ejected a fan from the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, tossing him a $40 refund on his way out the door. The accused's crime? Shouting out repeated requests for Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" — a harmless joke, perhaps, but a definite distraction during a show that otherwise featured little more than Adams' voice, his acoustic guitar and occasional cameos from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Four years later, Adams came back to the Ryman, this time with the Cardinals in tow. Looking to bury the hatchet, the band delivered two hours of Deadhead-driven country-rock, stopping only when a heckler in the second row lobbed a string of taunts at the frontman. "Keep talking shit, motherfucker," Adams responded, stopping his performance of Jacksonville City Night's "Games" midway through the first verse. "Come up here, then; talk it to my face. Get up here! I dare you."
The heckler stayed in his seat, and the rest of the show unfolded as it was meant to, with no further refunds or reprimands needed. The gig couldn't erase lingering memories of that first Ryman show, though. It was the heckle heard 'round Music City, and Adams couldn't seem to do anything — including getting sober — to put it to rest.
Until last night.
During the final moments of a two-night stand at the Ryman, Adams wrapped up a mesmerizing full-band performance of "I See Monsters," then stepped away from the microphone while a roadie brought two sheets of paper to the front of the stage. Adams looked down and gave the lyric sheets a quick once-over. Then, with the rest of the band waiting in the wings, he kicked off a surprise acoustic performance of "Summer of '69."
What followed was a stripped-down version of a song that had caused so much drama more than a decade prior. Adams — who's become genuine friends with Bryan Adam over the past year, even wishing him a happy birthday last November by tweeting, "@bryanadams I will be toasting you from a secret Pinball Lair with California's most wondrous greenery!" — played the 1985 hit alone, treating it not as a Reagan-era guilty pleasure, but as a moving, melodic tribute to young love and teenage dreams.
During a pair of sold-out shows whose highlights included guest guitar solos from Jason Isbell, occasional harmony vocals by Amanda Shires, a duet of the Dirty Dancing throwback "She's Like the Wind" with opener Natalie Prass and a rare performance of Whiskeytown's "16 Days," Adams saved the best for last, extending an olive branch to the city that was once his home during the recording of his 2000 solo debut, Heartbreaker. His acoustic tour back in October 2002 might not have been the best days of his life. . .but 12 and a half years later, it seems like everyone is more than happy to move on.