We almost didn’t make it, a fire and epic power cut left my tickets stranded in my drawer, and apparently we couldn’t get back into the building until today. In the end my manager got in and rescued the tickets, I text my waiting mate at the pub..we are all set.
An hour later we were standing in the crowd with a can of piston head beer in our hands, sweating, listening to the soulful, Nina Simone-esque voice (Listen to it’s cold out here) of Bhi Bhiman, who, fully suited and booted, must have been sweating even more than the crowd, still he ended with a whistle led cover of Walk of Life and the crowd, a comfortable sell out for Village Underground, were cooking nicely.
Southern Pacifica opened a set that seemed to go of forever, and that I didn’t want to end. I always think a sign of a good artist / band is when their voice sounds live, exactly the same as it does on CD / Download / Vinyl (delete according to age), and Josh Ritter’s raw silk vocals rolled out like chocolate over the band. Good man followed and I was singing along, perhaps only slightly less excited than Josh himself, who had a grin so big on his face his eyes were shut. Primarily for the release of the Beast in it’s Tracks album, there was a lot of The Animal years, including Lillian, Egypt, a raucous Wolves and my favourite of the album, a beautiful One More Mouth.
“Can we turn the lights down…lower…lower…turn them right down” bathed in two soft spotlights, accompanied by the piano Josh softly sung The Curse to a hushed crowd. There were tears in my eyes at the end, a guy in front of us had both his mates with their arms around him. I heard my mates voice from just behind me “I’m glad you’re in front of me, at least you can’t see me crying”. I’ve never had a reaction like that at a gig, even with songs that have a much more personal meaning to my life.
Evil Eye, Hopeful, New Lover (on par with The Airborne Toxic Event’s sometime around midnight as the greatest break up song ever, the last verse of New Lover conveys everything), Bonfire, The Appleblossom rag and Joy to you Baby all got a run out from the Beast in it’s Tracks, at one point he stood at the front of the stage and sung without the mic, the crowd heard it over the appreciative hush of watching a master at work.
He has an easy manner with the crowd, enjoying the warm reception, and even responding to advice..”Take your pants off” someone shouted after he said how hot it was. .”I was raised very conservatively, I’ve got 3 pairs on…habit”.
Towards the end there was just one song left I wanted to hear, I wanted to shout it out, to beg for it to be played, and then I heard it kick in, the last song, I turned around and hugged my mate. My favourite Ritter song, one of my favourite love songs ever. I sung the first lines to a girl behind me, I sung the rest to the air, loving every strum and drumbeat of Kathleen until it finished to a thoroughly deserved round of applause. They said their goodbyes, the crowd demanded more. The encore included long shadows and at the end another rapturous send off for a consummate musician and showman, and we streamed out into the cool night air.