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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 2, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 05
THE MUSIC LOUNGE
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band squeeze lots of songs and fans into The Neptune performance

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

JOSH RITTER AND
THE ROYAL CITY BAND
THE NEPTUNE
January 25


It's surprising that Josh Ritter isn't bigger than he is. A great singer-songwriter and exceptional live performer, he has yet to reach mainstream status like fellow Americana artists Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell. But his time will come.

Not that he's completely under the radar. In fact, Ritter's concert at The Neptune last Thursday was sold out days in advance with fans arriving early to capture every second of it. And what they experienced was an incredible two hours of music, a collection of Ritter's songs cradled into the gorgeous backdrops of The Royal City Band, the singer-songwriter's longtime supporting ensemble of musicians that give his tunes a fuller, grander sound in concert than what appears on the original recordings.

The show opened with a toe-tapping rendition of 'Feels Like Lightening' from Ritter's latest album, 2017's Gathering, which featured standout guitar and organ work from Josh Kaufman and Sam Kassirer, respectively. They followed with 'Empty Hands' a track from the 2007 album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, and 'Thunderbolt's Goodnight', also from the new record, that sounded like a vintage Western number.

'Henrietta, Indiana' included a blistering guitar portion at the end, while 'Dreams', which Ritter described as 'a song about feeling moody,' was performed like a poetry slam session with the cool bass plucking from Zackariah Hickman in the background. The Idaho native also played back-to-back songs solo with an acoustic guitar, and quite beautifully I might add, 'Cumberland' and 'Snow Is Gone'.

'Monster Ballads' from the 2006 album The Animal Years was accompanied by a soft guitar and delicate piano. The crowd, which whooped and hollered throughout the show, really got into it when Ritter landed on one of his most popular hits, 'Kathleen', joining in by singing the chorus loudly and clapping their hands. They did the same when he played 'Homecoming', a track from 2015's Sermon on the Rocks record.

Ritter and his band closed out the main set with 'Getting Ready to Get Down', a barn burner of a song that found some audience members in the balcony dancing; everybody on the floor level were on their feet for the entire show.

A trio of songs was performed during the encore, the passionate and romantic 'Hopeful', plus 'Roll On' and a marvelous solo version of 'Girl in the War' by Ritter. Before exiting the stage, he sincerely thanked everybody for giving him the opportunity to allow him to do what he truly loves, play music.

The next time Josh Ritter sweeps through Seattle, I'm betting he gets booked at a larger venue, seeing that he's already outgrown theaters the size of The Neptune, which can accommodate up to about 900 people. The good news is that fans who missed out on seeing him this time because it was sold out will have a better chance to experience him live on his next visit. The bad news is that it'll be a little less of an intimate performance. But when you're as good as Ritter - and he's really, really good - and when the world finally takes notice, playing in bigger venues just comes with the territory.

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