Josh Ritter free in Copley Square


Ago 7 2006, 15h14

“Look,” he said, “I know we’re in the epicenter of Puritanism, here between the library and the church, but can we get a big redneck yell?”

That was Josh Ritter playing a free outdoor concert at Copley Square this afternoon. A and I went in two weeks ago for one of the earlier shows in the series, but we left late and spent so long on the T that we only saw Edie Brickell (and a band that must be, I joked, the New New Bohemians,) play three or four songs before the show was over. I wanted to see all of Josh’s set, so we left earlier this time, and got there just as they were breaking down the opening act and setting up Josh’s band. It was ten or fifteen minutes between when we got there and when the show really started, and meanwhile WBOS, playing over the speaker stack, played Wolves on the radio.

I only had two problems with the concert, which I’ll get out of the way early: first, where I was sitting, the bass overpowered the rest of the band. This doesn’t help a lot of Josh’s songs, even though his bassist is quite good. I had trouble hearing Josh sometimes because of his habit of mumbling into the mike between songs; that pitch of voice would carry to the worst seat in the Horse, but it didn’t really make it past the first ten rows in Copley Square. Second, this was an outdoor concert, which meant quite a few of the people around me weren’t really paying attention to the show; they were sitting around yakking. Which is to be expected, I suppose, and if it really bothered me I could’ve stood up and gone closer to the stage.

Josh spent a few years in Cambridge, so he was pretty excited about being back and playing right in the center of things in Copley Square. He said that a few times in between a few songs. He opened with several songs off The Animal Years, which I’ve heard often enough now even though I haven’t gotten around to buying the disc yet: "Monster Ballads,” “Wolves,” and another which I hadn’t heard (maybe it was “Another Mouth”?) He wasn’t afraid to go into his back catalog, though, hitting the high notes from “Golden Age Of Radio” (“Harrisburg,” “Me & Jiggs,” and the title track, among others,) and “Hello Starling” (“Kathleen,” “The Bad Actress.”) He even dipped back to his first CD [album artist=Josh Ritter]Josh Ritter[/track] for “Hotel Song.” (“You checked in, I checked you out…”) Of course, he did have trouble remembering how to start the verses.

The crowd knew what they were there for, with quite a few of them streaming to the front when the music started, and cheering loudly for “Kathleen” and “Me & Jiggs.” Josh isn’t used to big outdoor venues; he takes a long time to set up his jokes, so you really have to be paying attention, as when he took the bridge of “You Don’t Make It Easy, Babe,” to dedicate the song to Dick Cheney, “who couldn’t be here with us tonight; his cat is sick.” (And then the last verse includes the line, “I hope you find someone just as hard as you come / but in this hard world sadly that’s so easily done.”) I didn’t catch the intro to “Girl in the War,” but the crowd up front did, and cheered; they were waiting for that song.

He closed with “Snow Is Gone,” which is a pretty good finale, but the crowd managed to scream up an encore; back out, the band played “Song For The Fireflies,” which was a good summer-evening wrap-up and put us in the right mood to go home.

It was a great evening out, actually; after the roasting heat earlier in the week, it was genuinely cool downtown, just right for sitting out on the grass and watching a show. Next week the opener is Sonya Kitchell, who has drawn me some search engine traffic in the last few months as she gets radio airplay; I don’t know if we’ll make it in or not, but we might try.


  • misskitkit

    wandered over from a link on the Josh Ritter page... Thanks so much for the review. I was planning on going to this concert, but the weather was too iffy for a 6-hour roundrip drive. Sounds like a great show.

    Ago 8 2006, 15h27
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