Monday, May 15, 2006

Live Review - Josh Ritter, Belfast, May 14 2006

Dave, Clare and I checked out Josh Ritter last night at the Empire. We had a great time, and speaking to Josh afterwards we found a shared fondness for Ron Sexsmith and velvet jackets.

ARTIST: Josh Ritter
VENUE: The Empire, Belfast
DATE: 14 May 2006

JoshJosh Ritter and his band played a lengthy, value for money set to a sold out crowd at the Empire Music Hall on a rainy Sunday evening. He seems to be in Ireland more than he's not these days, and that can only be a good thing.

This April-May tour is in support of his excellent new album, 'The Animal Years' (check out my review here). As such, his set drew mainly from that album, but still had time to incorporate fans' favourites from "The Golden Age Of Radio" and "Hello Starling".

Josh kicked off with 'Girl in the war', the Iraq-influenced opener from his latest album where the Saints look at the world and 'wonder what it is we done'. He moved straight into the catchy, "Monster Ballads" by which the time the band with its big drum sounds and thumping bass had found a groove. By the time he played his third song, 'Good man' the audience too were singing.

I've never been to such a good-natured gig at the Empire before. The atmosphere was less of a hushed reverence than a raucous party. Friendly banter was exchanged and to cheers and handclaps Josh was forced to down a Guinness in one go. A challenge he was more than equal to. Through his ear-to-ear grin Josh told stories between songs of Lionel Richie casettes and cooking with power-tools.

He was clearly enjoying himself, moreso when he spotted the gaudy 'Glamarama' neon-sign hanging over the stage. 'We HAVE to turn this thing on' he exclaimed, 'everybody needs a bit of Glamarama!'. Throughout the jaunty "Lillian, Egypt" as the sign emitted its artifical-light, Josh careered around the stage and the crowd clapped and stomped their feet.

The band let him perform a couple of songs by himself and for the very last number he unplugged the guitar, came as close to the audience as he could and all sang together. A perfect way to end a great night.

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