Josh Ritter never fails to amaze me with his live show. He rarely fails to amaze me on record as well. Last nights show at the Victoria Theatre was no exception. He played a couple songs he doesn’t always play, and left a couple big hits off of the setlist. It was enough of a change to make the whole concert feel fresh and new. It also didn’t hurt that we got there early enough to be in the first row.
Well, that’s a bit misleading. Actually, we WERE in the second row, but once opener Scott Hutchison (of Frightened Rabbit) finished his set, the girls in front of us left, so we took their spot. They weren’t the only ones to leave, either. Scott Hutchison has a much bigger following in Chicago than I thought.
I’m not completely familiar with Frightened Rabbit. I know OF them, but I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to their music. Which is odd, because I generally like music from Scottish bands. We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad, Franz Ferdinand have all received a lot of time on my iPod. From what I can tell, Scott Hutchison’s music is mostly stuff that I would like.
His onstage persona is quite charming. He tells a lot of funny anecdotes (in particular there was one about having a pubic hair stuck in his throat when he played at the Double Door that made me chuckly quite a bit. If you’re a fan of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, you understand why), plays without a setlist, and appears to have a great time up there.
In other words, he was a perfect set up man for a guy like Josh Ritter.
It wasn’t that long ago that we drove up to Madison to see Josh play at the Majestic Theatre. It’s fair to say that I was a little worried that we’d end up hearing the same setlist and I would find myself disappointed with the show. I should have known that thinking I’d be let down by Josh Ritter is a silly concept. The guy could come out, play a few chords, flash that big, goofy grin, say thanks Chicago and leave, and I’d be perfectly happy.
Instead, he came out with the band and played, I think, the longest set I’ve seen them perform. Starting alone with “Come and Find Me” off Golden Age of Radio calmed me down quite a bit. When we saw him in Madison I wanna say he opened with “Monster Ballads,” so right there, the show is already headed in a different direction.
I’m not sure if I was more surprised with the songs that got played, or the ones that didn’t. Is it really a Josh Ritter show if he doesn’t play “Wolves?” That’s been a staple every time we’ve seen him play. He also didn’t play “Another New World” off So Runs the World Away. He played that one in Madison, as well as last May when we saw him in the friendly confines of this same Vic.
He did play “Naked As A Window,” which I would argue is the best song with a 90-second duration. He also played the newest song available, “Galahad,” which was just released last week as part of a Tour EP. That song, if you haven’t heard it, is fantastic. It has everything. Biblical references, Kenny Rogers, Knights, Angels, Stable boys…the list goes on. It’s funny and clever in all the best ways. Download it if you haven’t already.
The biggest surprise of the night came just before “Kathleen,” when Josh announced that in the middle of the song, he wanted everyone to start slow-dancing. I had heard about this happening at his Valentine’s Brawl shows the last few days, but I didn’t expect it to continue. Sure enough, halfway through, he told everyone to hold out your arms like Frankenstein and hopefully someone would be generous enough to dance with you.
It was a sweet moment, and one that I doubt most people will ever forget. I know I’VE never been in a room with 1500 people slow-dancing before.
We got a couple more rockin’ songs after that, and then the show ended with “Change of Time.” A good song to go out on, I suppose, and the crowd participation was wonderful.
If you still haven’t seen Josh Ritter live, I don’t understand your resistance. If you give it a chance, I guarantee you will enjoy it. This was my fifth time seeing him, and he is consistently entertaining and the music is always amazing.
My apologies for not taking any pictures or videos this time around…I think venues have my picture up on the wall or something, I always seem to be standing two feet from a security guy. I wouldn’t have cared, but this douchebag told the girl next to us that she needed to put her phone on her camera away, so I doubt the Flip would have gone over well.