Josh Ritter; May 14, 2008; High Noon Saloon
I almost didn’t go to this show. It was scheduled to start at the same time as my last volleyball game of the session with Pirates! and I really didn’t want to miss it, but when Liz decided she couldn’t go because she had too much work to do I decided to take her ticket. Am I ever glad I did.
Of course, then again had I not been there I wouldn’t have known how absolutely amazing the show was. I walked in during his second song and was immediately charmed by how much fun he was having, and how completely adorable he looked doing it. I pondered the sold out crowd that stood between me and my friends who were right in front of the stage. “Is there room up there?” I texted them, not wanting to be that person who thinks they can get right up front whenever they want. “Surprisingly yes,” came the answer. Tiring of the chatter at the back of the room, I decided to try it, bringing drinks with me since that seems to somehow justify the journey. Sure enough, there was a surprising amount of room up front, apparently no one wanted to get too close.
From my better vantage point I could appreciate the rest of the band, the keyboard player who looked just like Kreggy Koscal and the adorable drummer I could have put in my pocket. The band blasted through track after track from Ritter’s most recent release, last year’s “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.” While not as great as his prior release, “The Animal Years,” or my personal favorite, “Hello Starling,” it is still a worthy addition to his catalog. The Snidely Whiplash flavored “Lilian, Eygpt” was even more fun live than on CD, and the equally rooted in the past “Next to the Last True Romantic” with its chorus of “stealing hearts like they’re horses, and horses when hearts can’t be found” brimmed with exuberance. “Animal Years” stand-out track “Wolves” happened early, but even in the back of the room I could feel the energy.
I missed opener Dawn Landes, but knowing how I feel about girl singers I didn’t think it probably mattered. She joined Ritter later for a song on which they shared a microphone. That may have been the only point at which the show lost its momentum, which until this point had been building at a near alarming rate. The unremarkable duet seemed to encourage the chatter that hadn’t been as obvious since I had moved to the front. After its conclusion, things got back on track and Ritter and the band rolled through the rest of the set. Even though I had been smiling non-stop since getting there, it was “Starling’s” “Kathleen” that really killed me. Part of an enthusiastic two song encore, it gave me shivers that come back every time I even talk about how great it was. Like right now, shivers, seriously.
Next time Ritter comes to town, I won’t even think about not going.