Live Review - Josh Ritter @ Webster Hall

Josh Ritter played to a capacity crowd Friday night in New York at the beautiful Webster Hall. He and his band played a 90-minute set that was heavy on this year’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter and last year’s fantastic The Animal Years.

Josh bounded out to the stage at 9 with an ear-to-ear grin that barely left during the whole show. It was so refreshing to see a performance that didn’t contain a shred of indie-rock pretension. Both Josh and his band were obviously overjoyed to be playing in front of such a large audience and never once tried to contain that emotion for appearance sake. The crowd couldn’t help but share in Josh’s obvious enthusiasm and responded with their own during the upbeat songs and a hushed reverence for the quiet ones.

The band was well versed in many styles, swinging from the polished folk-rock of “Open Doors” and “Good Man” to swaggering barnburners like “To The Dogs Or Whoever”. They even threw in a brief cover of Modest Mouse’s “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” in the middle of “Harrisburg”, which delighted me but was probably lost on most of the more “mature” audience members. A horn section joined for a handful of songs from the latest album, including “Right Moves” and “Real Long Distance”. When Josh played solo on “The Temptation of Adam” and “Girl In The War” you could hear a pin drop among the audience, while fan favorites “Kathleen” and “Wolves” provided perfect counters as folks were happily singing along. The only disappointment was the notable absence of “Thin Blue Flame” - the mind-blowing apocalyptic climax to The Animal Years, which I thought for sure would close the show.

Stream :: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

MP3 :: Girl In The War
MP3 :: Thin Blue Flame
(from The Animal Years. Buy here)

MP3 :: Kathleen
MP3 :: Snow Is Gone (live)
(from Hello Starling. Buy here)

MP3 :: Harrisburg
(from Golden Age of Radio. Buy here)

Opening for Ritter was Eric Bachmann, former front man of Crooked Fingers and current solo artist. He played a well-received 45-minute set that featured songs from his 2006 solo album To The Races. He was accompanied on violin and keys by a woman (er, whose name I didn’t catch) who was right in step with his guitar playing the whole set, even when she tripped mid-song. After a brief pause Bachmann joked that she was drunk and they picked up exactly where they left off, to the delight of the crowd. Before last night I wasn’t really familiar with Bachmann’s music but after seeing him play I’ll certainly check out his back catalog.

MP3 :: Carrboro Woman
MP3 :: Lonesome Warrior
(from To The Races. Buy here)


David said...

Start with "New Drink for the Old Drunk" from Crooked Fingers, then "You Can Never Leave" from Red Devil Dawn. Nice stuff. An easy fit with Ritter, with a big heavy dash of Daniel Lanois mixed in.

James said...

Sounds good David - thanks for the recommendation!