Home > Music > Josh Ritter Live at the Stone Pony

Josh Ritter Live at the Stone Pony

Josh Ritter knows how to work an audience. He comes on stage beaming. I have never seem a man do happy to be performing in front of an audience. He is constantly in motion, which is unusual for a folk musician. Perhaps that’s why he put together a powerful band of musicians. The full experience does push his songs over the coffeehouse singer-songwriter mark.

Tonight he played before a packed house at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. It was a warm up night for his tour. He told the crowd that the band hadn’t performed in 6 months. For musicians that can be a career.

There were many new songs, and I will admit that some of the old ones were barely familiar to me while some in the crowd sang along to every word. Ritter clearly relished this, often pulling away from the mic to allow the voices from the audience a chance to shine through.

Until you spend a couple if hours with the man and his songs, you might not realize the extent that religious imagery dominates his songwriting. His narratives steal equally from folk tradition and religious tales. What’s striking, however, is how how playful the biblical characters are. There’s no great deference given. They joke and they kid and they come on to King Arthur’s nights, and often represent sexual ecstasy. This is no bloodless born again philosophy. Saints are never too far away from scoundrels.

The highlight of the night was a rambunctious version of “Harrisburg” that segued into “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”. Josh stopped right before the high note. His band fell silent. He unbuttoned his collar. Took a deep breath. This was totally out of his range. Then he fucking nailed that high note. Ghaaaaaa-uh-uh-un.

Then it was back to “Harrisburg”. But the message was clear. Nothing is out of bounds.

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  1. June 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Dude… he’s Dylan meets Neil Young with a little Springsteen mixed in. As a musician, I embrace, and listen to all types of new music. I tried to like him, I really did. His stuff is weak, and extremely unpalatable. This is the Frankenstein that happens when the Folk contingent tries to stay relevant. At least I don’t have to hear aging pseudo intellectuals saying nobody is better than Dylan anymore!! My Take… Sir Galahads voice is really bad!!

    • June 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      To each his own, but for me, “Dylan meets Neil Young with a little Springsteen mixed in” sounds like a ringing endorsement.

      Clearly he’s not reinventing the wheel, but he writes relatable stories with often gripping imagery and puts them against pleasant folk melodies, often with a bit of gospel or country thrown in. First and foremost, I think he seems himself as a storyteller. This would explain his need to publish a novel, as well.

  2. June 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Exactly Chris… you are dead on. He should be writing more story’s/novels instead of putting his words to unoriginal copycat music with horrible vocal stylings. I personally don’t like Springsteen, Neil young, and Dylan. To me they’re as whiny and annoying as Gilbert Gottfried is to comedians. I think we’re currently in the downward part of the trough in a cyclical state of music as it was before Nirvana and other indie bands broke as a rebellion for the crap major labels were feeding us at the time. I think that a lot of people give music like Josh Ritter’s more credence (although i love me some CCR) than it deserves because of a stale music scene that pushes over produced Brittany Spears like pop chick shlock down peoples ear canals. I just think Josh Ritter is a very unoriginal act. I know many who feel the same way.

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