The current tour that finds Ryan Adams & The Cardinals serving as the opening act for Oasis is an interesting juxtaposition to say the least. On one end of the bill, you've got a turgid group of limey rock dinosaurs who've relied on the same stodgy formula for the past 15 years and on the other you've got the shy and spazy alt-country manchild who has made a career of constantly reinventing himself.
Yes, musically we're talking "apples and oranges" here, but for some strange reason after seeing the two entities perform last Friday at the Allstate Arena, I felt compelled to try to evaluate in my mind who is actually the better musical act.
Below the surface, I realized that there is one distinct facet that ties these two musical entities together; both have become extremely easy targets for derision (both on and off stage), but both have exhibited just as many brilliant moments throughout their career that make it impossible to write either of them off.
Hoping for a triumphant return-to-form ala Cold Roses, I was really disappointed upon hearing Adams new album, Cardinology. Thankfully, most of the pop polish from Easy Tiger had been removed, but the lack of soul seemed to remain. Live, however, the brilliance of The Cardinals is impossible to ignore and while the new songs may not quite be on par with Adams best, the added live punch did them a lot more justice. (being the opener and not the center of attention also seemed to give Adams a lot more focus on stage...resulting in a really tight, no-nonsense set)
Similarly, the new material from Oasis has hints of a classic "return-to-form" sound, but in the end it just doesn't invoke the same passionate response as their early singles. However, it's still fookin' Oasis we're talking about here! Even if the new material isn't as exciting, I still thought that perhaps live they would blow me away with their epic arena rock antics. Instead, it was just sort of amusingly surreal. There they were, the self-proclaimed "best band in the world" live and in person, but musically the experience wasn't elevated that much beyond just hearing one of their old favorites on the radio. (two notable exceptions: I did feel a bit of a spark when they tore into the title track to (What's The Story) Morning Glory...and when Liam would leave the stage and Noel handled lead vox himself on a few songs, the performance felt a lot less canned.)
Strangely, the Oasis set actually made me appreciate the performance from Ryan Adams even more. Thinking back, I realized that Adams set with the Cardinals was a lot more dynamic and inspired, and just plain sounded better. Hands down, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals wins my fictional battle of the bands contest over Oasis.