Being a fan of Josh Ritter for many years, I was excited when one of his live dates in LA finally aligned with a free night for me. The Teragram is an inconvenient venue to get to, with little in the way of affordable parking nearby. Still, as far as concert venues go, it has great sound and an adjacent cafe for those wanting food/drinks before the show.
The great sound of the venue was evident as opener Nicki Bluhm took the stage. Clutching her guitar to he chest, Bluhm belted out a beautiful acapella number that brought the crowd to a sudden hush. Her amazing voice aside, Bluhm continued to with a setlist made up of eloquent, often melancholy folk tunes accompanied only by her acoustic guitar and the occasional foot stomp. I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch the song titles outside of her socially conscious single “Remember Love Wins”.
Bluhm was a great warm up for Josh Ritter, who hit the stage with his band filled with the excitement and enthusiasm of a child. It’s always endearing to see a performer who you can tell is grateful to be where they are and able to play music for their audience, and this sums up Ritter perfectly. This, coupled with his innate talent as a singer, songwriter and performer, made for a great concert-going experience.
It helped that he opened strongly with “Girl in the War”, one of his best tracks from album The Animal Years. Picking up the tempo, Ritter and his crack band launched into “Showboat”, an easy sing-along that brought smiles to the audience and Ritter himself. Throughout the set, Ritter kept things from getting too static, going solo acoustic for a few songs, and bringing the band around a single mic to perform as well. And no matter what the set-up, Ritter continued to knock things out of the park with “Kathleen” and “Homecoming”. Even quieter numbers like “When Will I Be Changed” kept the audience gripped.
Despite being tired as the main set ended, I couldn’t help jump around to the excellent “Getting Ready to Get Down”. It’s one of Ritter’s catchiest and cleverest songs, and that’s saying a lot if you know his catalog. I left the show as he went into his third song of the encore, the lovely “Change of Time”, praying he didn’t follow it up with the one track I had been waiting for, “Good Man”. No matter how good a show is, sometimes your body tells you’ve had enough. Hopefully he’ll play that song the next time I see him.
Check out Josh Ritter’s latest single, “Miles Away”