Joy to the city – Josh Ritter live at Village Underground

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.20130724_195026


2 thoughts on “Joy to the city – Josh Ritter live at Village Underground

  1. Lovely write-up! I agree the outpouring of emotion at Ritter shows can be remarkable.

    “Joy to You Baby” has been on heavy rotation this summer. The song seems to capture exactly the expansiveness, the magnanimity one feels when he glimpses the other side of heartbreak. Everything’s showing signs of life and he’s wide open. Even the lonely parking lots and freeways get his pause and good favor. Even the blasted heat wave.

    I’ve walked so many night miles through my city broken. I’ve drunk the cups of Who cares. And I’ve come through it to even, in some blessed moments, find it in myself to quietly wish my old love well. Sometimes I think the fleeting euphoria of coming back to yourself, to knowing you’ll pull through, is second best only to falling in love. I know no song that captures this very real experience better for me.

    The last refrain is so poignant, for forgiveness and acceptance of one’s self is indeed often the last holdout to healing.

    Plus, the lion of evening? Enchanting.

    …and I love Kathleen too. Here’s a bit of madness I once wrote to poke fun at what it’s like to be in the seats for it:

  2. I agree about the last refrain, if you can look at yourself and accept yourself for what you are (not always an easy thing to do) then it makes you stronger moving forward, but there is also the knee-jerk reaction after the curtain comes down, ‘that was a waste of time’, but it never is, at the very least there is a lesson, about people, about yourself.
    The whole album is a raw journey through heartache, and he manages to capture it so poetically, but with some real barbs scattered throughout.

    “I know that you had been untrue, I didn’t know how but I knew, The who you spoke to in your dreams, Was never how you spoke to me”

    New Lover puts into words exactly what it is to move on and find someone new, and the reoccurring theme of your new flame looking slightly like your ex, are you really moving on, are trying to recapture the lost spark with a new match?

    “I feel like a miser, I feel low and mean, For accusing you of stealin’ what I offered you for free, Still it baffles the belief sometimes what thieves we lovers be.”

    The last verse is one of the most unflinchingly honest refrains and made me smile when I first heard it

    “I hope you’ve got a lover now, hope you’ve got somebody who, Can give you what you need like I couldn’t seem to do. But if you’re sad and you are lonesome and you’ve got nobody true, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too.”

    In the storm of emotions that roil one way to the other, everything comes to the fore at some point, before the calm eventually returns.

    anyhoo, I’m off to read some more of your blog.

    “She asked are you cursed, he said I think that I’m cured”

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