Ryan Adams has always been ambitious, you have to give him that. This is, after all, the same singer-songwriter who once fronted the Faulknerian Whiskeytown, released no less than three albums in 2005 and remade Taylor Swift's "1989" song for song.
Adams on Saturday night may have tackled his most ambitious project to date — covering the Rolling Stones' classic 1972 album "Exile on Main Street" song for song. In New Orleans. During Jazz Fest.
Backed by a band that included Don Was on bass, Cyril Neville on percussion and John Medeski on piano, Adams burned through the “Exile” set by setting the pace with “Rocks Off,” the album’s opener.
The song "Sweet Black Angel" was omitted from the set list.
Adams’ longtime guitarist Todd Wisenbaker played the Keith Richards role by backing the singer on guitar and vocals. Wisenbaker played most of the solos and created a playful back-and-forth with Adams on extended jams of the Stones classics throughout the night.
Adams stuck close to the script on “Rocks Off” and “Tumbling Dice,” but he also took chances by reworking “Sweet Virginia” into a power ballad and turning the Richards-sung “Happy” into a country shuffle.
He also extended many of the songs into jams, some of which were more than 10 minutes long.
“Stop Breaking Down,” one of the final songs on the double album, was re-imagined as a blues stomp that found Neville on lead vocals.
Adams looked outside of “Exile” to the Stones' follow-up album “Sticky Fingers” for the encore with extended versions of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Sway,” leaving the crowd with the chorus of “it’s just that demon life has got me in its sway” stuck in their heads as they shuffled into the late-night streets of New Orleans.