Sunday, August 02, 2009

Newport Folk Festival 4 - Josh Ritter

After explaining that when he was young he sent a tape of his songs to Pete Seeger, Idaho-born singer/songwriter Josh Ritter then spoke about how his first nationwide tour was undertaken with Joan Baez.

He then launched into "Hello Starling (Snow is Gone)," the oldest tune he performed Sunday as the opening performer at the last day of the 50th Newport Folk Festival.

Ritter played "Starling" and "Girl in the War" mostly acoustic, but besides those two tracks, the bulk of his 11-song set was highlighted by an absolutely killer band. The energetic fivesome tore through popular tunes including "Wolves," "Right Moves" and, especially, the set closer "To The Dogs or Whoever."

But the highlight of the 50-minute set came from an extended take on the countrified folk of "Lillian, Egypt," a tune off of his critically lauded 2006 album "The Animal Years." The fiery version of the song included a portion of The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" that got the crowd aurally excited.

Numerous times Ritter spoke of what an honor it was to be playing the festival, noting that the only other time he performed at it was in the parking lot, trying to give away tapes. The 33-year-old musician never dropped the smile from his face, constantly jumped around and got the audience clapping along. It was a set full of emotion and power, a perfect 50 minutes to open the last day of the festival.

Now I'm on the Joe Pugg. We'll talk soon.

Setlist: Wildfires / Wolves / Rumors / Empty Hearts / Girl In The War / Right Moves / Real Long Distance / Another New World / Lillian, Egypt (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da played in middle) / Hello Starling (Snow is Gone) / To the Dogs or Whoever

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