josh ritter

Josh Ritter @ Commodore Ballroom – July 31st 2014

Flashback to March 22nd 2013. Josh Ritter was playing at the Commodore Ballroom with Lake Street Dive and it blew my mind.

Cut back to July 31st 2014. Josh Ritter was playing at the Commodore Ballroom with Lake Street Dive and I was excited for a second time around.

When I got there, I only made it for the last 3 songs of Lake Street Dive but they were exactly what I expected. A lot of soul and jazz influence, and Rachael Price’s powerful voice were a great welcome-to-the-night. Honestly don’t have much to add from last time; a strong, tight band that really knows what they’re doing.

Liam Hurley started to get things fired up on the drums after a brief intermission and Josh Ritter came out on stage with that massive grin that makes him retain the title of happiest man on stage. ‘Good Man’ from The Animal Years lived up to the line “Oh I love to sing along with you”, as Ritter got the crowd to sing away with the band. I noticed right away, as Ritter started singing, that his voice had a lot more of a country twang to it compared to last time which really works for a lot of his songs (especially given the amount of old material he went though). After the song ended, Ritter gave his love to BC again, which makes you feel that it’s not just some act he’s putting on; guy was practically gushing over it.

‘Hopeful’ (The Beast In Its Tracks) and an older song ‘Me & Jiggs’ from the first album Golden Age Of Radio preceded one of my favourite songs ‘A Certain Light’ (The Beast In Its Tracks). I love the interweaving with some of the songs on The Beast In Its Tracks; ‘A Certain Light’ starts off with “My new lover…”, ‘New Lover’ being a track later on the album with the lyrics “…and she only looks like you when she’s in a certain light”.

Ritter switched over to an electric guitar for ‘Southern Pacifica’ (So Runs The World Away) which had a great breakdown before kicking back in stronger and fuller. ‘New Lover’ (The Beast In Its Tracks) saw a switch back to electric acoustic and got people clapping and stomping along, which got people riled up for Mike Olson of Lake Street Dive playing trumpet on ‘Right Moves’ (The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter) which is an excellent song. One of the major benefits of these bands touring so closely is that they can mesh together so well and the song gets such a boost from the brass.

Ritter spun in circles with excitement as they started ‘Kathleen’ (Hello Starling) and he split the crowd into thirds to provide so back-up “Oh”s in a harmony before getting into his self-diagnosed “historical narration syndrome”. Calling Louis and Clark assholes for forgetting their third best pal ‘Carl’ made for a pretty funny snippet of appreciation for BC and just as you thought the song was over, the band busted back into a strong reprise that was just what the song needed.

Then came the part of the night I was most looking forward to; the band left the stage and Ritter played through ‘The Temptation Of Adam’ (The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter) which gave me goosebumps the whole time. Beautiful song that just brings a swelling in my hear t that the rest of my body can’t deal with, without making all my arm hair stand on end. I will come back time and time again if only to heart that song live again.

Ritter wanted to go through some new songs and told us we could stop him anytime if we didn’t like it, but ‘I Can’t Believe We Were Ever Strangers’, a soft and slow emotional song; ‘Devil In His Eye’ more of a dark brooding song that seemed like a mouthful to get through all those lyrics at once; and ‘Get Yourself Back To The Country’, which was a light-hearted and quick-paced song were all a pleasure to hear. These song names seem to be kind of a general consensus, so I’m just going to go with them as they stand.

The band came back and they ran through ‘Empty Hearts’ (The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter), ‘Harrisburg’ (Golden Age Of Radio), ‘Song For The Fireflies’ (Golden Age Of Radio), and Monster Ballads (The Animal Years). I’d only heard ‘Harrisburg’ live previously, so it was nice to have things switched up. ‘Wolves’ (The Animal Years) was an interesting one as Ritter got the crowd to howl along as he dropped to his knees towards the end of the song and the crowd ate it up. It was guitarist Austin Nevins’ birthday, so the next song was just a classic ‘Happy Birthday’ for Mr. Nevins, who didn’t want the attention but enjoyed it nonetheless. ‘Joy To You Baby’ (The Beast In Its Tracks)and the beloved ‘Lillian, Egypt’ (The Animal Years) with it’s amazing ragtime piano from the very talented Sam Kassirer closed the set on a great note.

But don’t think that this would stop Ritter from getting back up for an encore after one of the shortest waiting periods I think I’ve ever been a part of. Rachael Price came out to sing with Ritter on ‘Roll On’ (Golden Age Of Radio) which was a beautiful song for her voice to hit every corner of the room with. It puts the album version of the song to shame. Ritter then went on to say that all across BC, people were transforming into werewolves at that very moment. A bit weird in conception alone but also a bit out of place as they’d played ‘Wolves’ just a bit ago but then we all caught on when the truth was revealed that we could protect ourselves from a werewolf attack through the purchase of and a listening to a Lake Street Dive album. It was a great near-end-concert-plug.

Then it was time to pull the night together for a big ending with all the members of Lake Street Dive hitting the stage to join in for ‘To The Dogs Or Whatever’ (The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter) which seems to be their favourite way to make the encore hit hard. “Did I mention how I love you in your underwear?” is probably one of my favourite lyrics and when the band stopped for Ritter to run through that verse without back-up before busting back in was perfect.

There wasn’t really a specific moment for him but since I went through everyone else, Zack Hickman wasn’t around that night, which was odd but Josh Kaufman filled the role and did an awesome job. So, thanks to Kaufman for keeping things together.

21 songs (22 counting that happy birthday) is a real solid set, taking up about an hour and 40 minutes or longer. About half the songs I’d heard the last time, so they really mixed things up, especially by adding quite a few from Golden Age Of Radio. I had a great night and wouldn’t ever want to miss a show.

The band took a bow and Ritter profusely thanked us all for being there and asked that we all get home safe. At the very end, he took it a bit further and said “I hope you all get lucky”.

The crowd laughed.

We did not all get lucky.

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