Josh Ritter at Vicar Street – Review
Josh Ritter – Vicar Street – 10th December 2013
Early on it the night, Josh Ritter described the decision to do an acoustic tour as like going outside without any trousers on. It seemed an apt analogy for the evening’s proceedings as the stripped down show, with Zack Hickman and Josh Kaufman bouncing from various instruments throughout the night and occasionally leaving the stage to let Ritter go it alone, had a wonderful ‘jam in the living-room’ feel to it, free of the constraints of the usual band set up.
A beaming Ritter was clearly delighted to be performing in the country that has welcomed him so warmly. As he gently sailed through the opening three songs; Best of the Best, Southern Pacifica and A Certain Light, the crowd respectfully fell silent and allowed Ritter and his cohorts to do their thing. There was a sense of intimacy between artist and audience for the whole gig, and while the next song, Bonfire, sparked the first of a few gentle clap-alongs, the crowd’s general demeanour throughout the night was one of polite reverence.
Not that the whole affair wasn’t without its lighter moments. Ritter’s hilarious ramblings about adopting wolf packs along with his stories of attempts to board trains via jungle gyms to escape the boredom of Moscow, Idaho certainly helped to get the crowd onside but it was his overall showmanship and obvious love for performing that really shone through.
The highlight came midway through when Ritter was left alone on stage to sing Another New World. The seven minutes of beautiful poetry sung in near darkness was an inspiring moment. He followed that up by discarding his guitar lead and moving to the very front of the stage to play an unamplified version of Snow Is Gone that the crowd gleefully helped out on.
Although the nature of the show meant that a few of the more familiar tunes didn’t get an airing, there was a pleasing mix of old and new songs throughout the set. Kathleen predictably went down a treat while Hopeful, from this year’s The Beast In Its Tracks, is already clearly a huge crowd favourite. Galahad, complete with its gloriously bonkers lyric “In Heaven there’s no lamb chops, Queen Guineveres for hand jobs, marijuana, Kenny Rogers or ecstasy” is another highlight – in case anyone was wondering, Ritter informs us that Kenny Rodgers hasn’t sued over that lyric yet!
Support act Stephen Kellogg re-emerged during the encore and all four musicians ended the show at the front of the stage gathered close together, busking the closing bars of Wait for Love. It was an ending that perfectly summed up the gig as a whole; cosy, intimate yet a little rough around the edges. But sure perfection is boring anyway.
Review by Mark O’Brien