Friday was a big day for Josh Ritter: it marked the official release of his ninth studio album Gathering following 2015’s excellent Sermon on the Rocks, and he and the Royal City Band were able to bring their foot-stomping, fast-talking tunes to World Cafe Live before flying to Minneapolis to kick off the record’s tour.
The singer-songwriter has long been a favorite of XPN and its members, and the crowd that had been steadily lining up outside quickly filled the venue to capacity in anticipation of his triumphant return. As one of the audience observed, “Nothing like Josh Ritter to get the people out of the woodwork.”
I also learned that there is none quite like Josh Ritter to light up a room. He had an absolutely infectious, endless smile that was reflected back from the crowd and only disappeared when the tone of a track called for a more somber visage – but then it came right back, along with sporadic bouncing around the stage because not even gravity could ground a man with as much joy as Ritter.
Beginning with the uptempo “Feels Like Lightning,” the entire set featured tracks from Gathering and flowed through the serious, the silly, the surprising, but always thoughtful and earnest. Standouts included the dark epic “Dreams” and “When Will I Be Changed,” which features Bob Weir in the recorded version. However, this comes with a strong caveat: If any of these tracks were thrown onto another artist’s album they would each be standouts in their own right, but here that distinction must be left up to one’s personal discretion.
Of course, there was no way this crowd was going to let the show end without an encore. Ritter and his band quickly returned to the stage after making their bows to perform some old favorites, the fast and fun “Getting Ready to Get Down” and the beautiful, enchanting “Homecoming.”
Feels Like Lightning
Train Go By
Oh Lord, Pt. 3
When Will I Be Changed
Getting Ready To Get Down
Free At Noon, gathering, Josh Ritter, World Cafe Live