Last night was Christmas for Karen!
After months of eager anticipation, it was finally time to see Josh Ritter at the Wilshire Ebell. The tickets were a Christmas present from my husband. The best Christmas present ever!
I'm a huge Josh Ritter fan. If there is a modern song-writer better than Ritter, I've not found them. In particular, Ritter's 2013 album, The Beast in Its Tracks is absolutely brilliant. On the album, Ritter writes songs revolving around his painful divorce and moving on. The lyrics are poignant and beautiful. It's the perfect album to listen to a few months after a bad break-up, when you might still be angry, but the anger has subsided enough to have a sense of perspective.
We arrived at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre shortly before the doors opened at seven. The theatre holds 1270 patrons and was nearly, maybe even completely, sold-out. It was packed. As soon as we entered the theatre, I made a beeline for the merch table.
I had come prepared to buy a tee-shirt. I love my Josh Ritter tee with lyrics from his song Kathleen, that I purchased at a show a few years ago. I wear it all of the time. The merch table on this tour had solid offerings, including several shirts. Unfortunately, only one guy was manning the table and he was swamped. It was difficult to get a good look at the items or to take time deciding. I ended up picking the only "girl shirt", which was bright yellow with flowers. It's pretty, but I'm not sure that the yellow is a good color for me. Unfortunately, it will likely be relegated to sleepwear.
We had great seats in the second row to the left of the stage. It was a quiet show, where people stayed seated for the entire performance. I was thrilled to be sitting so close to the stage.
The opener was Gregory Alan Isakov, who with two of his best friends, performed as a trio from Colorado. Instrumentally, they sounded beautiful, but Isakov's lyrics were muffled with bad sound mixing. It was difficult to hear him and as we were not familiar with his music, it was hard to appreciate. All, but one, of their songs were very down-beat, making for a melancholy opening set. I will have to check out his stuff on Spotify to see if I like it. It wasn't bad, but we were not blown away by the set.
Ritter, along with Zack Hickman and Josh Kaufman, took the stage promptly at nine and kicked off a two-hour set with the Best for the Best. This is my fourth Ritter concert and this was by far, the most unusual set-list. Yes, he played plenty of his hits, but he also played a ton of his quieter songs, songs that tend to get lost in the shuffle. He even explained this by calling those songs his wallflowers, those songs who would stand by the food table at a party.
The set list was very different from when he visited Los Angeles last March. It was a good change though. I was elated to finally hear one of my favorite Ritter songs, Monster Ballads, done live. I also was thrilled that he did The Temptation of Adam, one of the best pieces of storytelling that I've ever heard set to music. Ritter is a master storyteller. I was hoping that he would do an acapella version of Change of Time, which I was blown away by the first time I saw him in concert. It would have been a good fit for this set-list of quiet tunes.
As always, it's a joy to see Ritter perform. His smile is infectious. He clearly loves what his doing and appears to be humbled by his success. Although he has a strong fan base, he always feels accessible to his audience. During several songs, he encouraged audience participation, having everyone sing along. The best moments were when he abandoned the microphone and sang at the apron of the stage. The theatre was dead silent, everyone locked in to Ritter's voice. He is dynamic.
I left the show feeling awestruck. I wish that I was even a smidge as talented of a writer as Ritter.