Monday, May 24, 2010

Josh Ritter Review

BOSTON, Mass. — There are numerous examples of great musicians who just aren’t that good live. But there are even more examples of great songs that just don’t work on a stage, in front of people looking for entertainment.

On Friday at the Orpheum Theater, singer/songwriter Josh Ritter experienced some of the latter. An accomplished and celebrated live performer, Ritter’s recent record, "So Runs The World Away," easily the best work of his critically acclaimed career, is a subtle and nuanced masterwork, the kind of album best appreciated through headphones and over the course of repeated listens.

So with the bulk of the first half of Ritter’s two-hour set coming from this disc, he dulled the energy level of a crowd that just couldn’t wait to rise to its collective feet at this almost-homecoming show.

With a little more care put into the setlist, Ritter could have given the audience a performance that would have been impossible to forget. Instead, the thousands in attendance, folks singing along to virtually every word, had to settle for a very good, not great gig.

Opening with "Change of Time," the first song off of "So Runs The World Away," the singer/songwriter began a 10-song opening heavy on new music that featured predominantly slow tunes. New songs "Southern Pacific" and "Folk Bloodbath" didn’t receive nearly the same applause as "Monster Ballads" and "Good Man," two older tracks that while slow, got the crowd involved a bit.

After performing the Bruce Springsteen classic "The River" as a solo piece, without his five-man band, Ritter launched into "In The Dark," after imploring the venue to shut all the lights off. The tactic got the house a bit excited, and Ritter then followed with the crowd favorite "Kathleen," which found his band joining in the middle. This began a spirited run of songs that finally got the audience to stand up, dance and shout along.

"Right Movies" and "Girl in the War" kept the momentum, and then, after a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem "Annabelle Lee," the group captured beautifully the controlled chaos of "Another New World," the climactic centerpiece of "So Runs The World Away." Ritter then closed with three bona-fide favorites, the folk rocker "Harrisburg," the newbie "Lantern" and the Dylanesque stomper "To The Dogs Or Whoever."

An encore that featured openers The Punch Brothers let the bluegrass band put its impressive plucking skills to work on "The Next to the Last Romantic," a tune that's always begged for fiddles and banjos and mandolins. An appreciative Ritter closed the show with "Wait For Love" alone on his acoustic guitar, with the members of his band and The Punch Brothers providing backup vocals. It ended a two-hour gig that closed well, leaving the audience wanting more, but wishing the beginning was a wee bit more livelier.
"Change Of Time"
"Southern Pacific"
"Folk Bloodbath"
"Monster Ballads"
"Good Man"
"Rattling Locks"
"The Curse"
"The River" (Bruce Springsteen cover)
"In The Dark"
"Right Moves"
"Girl in the War"
"Another New World"
"Harrisburg" (played Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" in the middle)
"To The Dogs or Whoever"

"Snow Is Gone"
"The Next to the Last True Romantic"
"Wait For Love"

Now, I'm a crappy videographer, and I was trying to drink a beer at the same time, but here's Ritter doing "Right Moves." The video was shot from a bit far off, but the sound is pretty good. Enjoy:

1 comment:

Leather Sofa said...

However, many performance groups have challenged the theatre-space and have since been putting on work in non-theatrical spaces. These performances can take place outside or inside, in a non-traditional performance space, and include street theatre, and site specific theatre.