Last week, I caught an ad in the local paper, Seven Days, and found one of the more fantastic deals for a concert that I’ve seen in a while: Josh Ritter and the Low Anthem at the University of Vermont: $10. And, it was the next night. Purchasing a ticket was an absolute no-brainer, and on Friday night, I went up to Burlington to see Ritter for a second time.
The last show that I had seen from Josh Ritter and his band was in 2007, where he played with Vermont group Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on the Waterfront Park. It was a fantastic show, and Ritter was introduced in grand style. The Low Anthem was a band that I had yet to see, but one that I was familiar with – looking back over the archives here, I’m surprised that I haven’t written about them yet.
Low Anthem opened for the show, and over the course of the show, I have to wonder if it’s a brilliant concoction of a bipolar producer. The group opened quietly for a couple of songs, including a great rendition of Charlie Darwin, a high, ethereal, sounding song, before launching into several other numbers that where loud and fast – Home I’ll Never Be, in particular, is one song that stood out from this style.
Low Anthem was good, but unpolished. Coming off of their first album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, released earlier this year, this isn’t necessarily something that was unexpected, but their sound was almost too raw, too varied, and had a very limited stage presence. I’m not sure that I saw them open their eyes on stage (that might have been the lighting though), but they seemed shy, hesitant until they began to play. While this obviously doesn’t impact the sound, I’ve always felt that concert performances are more than just the music – it’s about the entire experience and performance of the evening, music plus the band on stage. Fortunately, in this instance, Low Anthem’s music, energy and drive really made their act shine over their appearance.
Ritter, on the other hand, made the evening. From the start, Ritter practically jumped on stage, with a huge, boyish grin plastered on his face that didn’t leave the entire time that he was on stage. This was one concert where I didn’t take down a set list – I stood an enjoyed the show. The group played a wide range of songs, from some earlier albums, although mostly from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter and The Animal Years, as well as a number of new songs from next year’s upcoming album. Throughout the set were a number of my personal favorites: Snow Is Gone, Wolves, Girl In The War, Good Man, Kathleen, Lillian Egypt, Rumors, Mind’s Eye and a number of others.
Ritter is one of the few artists that I absolutely love in person far more than I like studio recordings. When introducing his music to a friend recently, I told him to imagine the music about 10 % faster, and 90% louder, and you’ll come up with an approximation to the intensity and mood of the evening. Ritter’s group, all decked out in vests and ties, presented a polished, energetic and excited performance that will likely rank up on some of my favorite concert experiences.
For me, Josh Ritter’s performance epitomizes what rock music should be: It’s fun, loud and full of wild energy by a group that seems genuinely excited and thrilled to be doing what they’re doing. It’s an added bonus that the group is brimming with talent – song-writing, musical expertise and sound is unmatched. If the band is coming near you anytime in the next couple of years, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Lillian, Egypt – Josh Ritter
The Curse – Josh Ritter
Orbital – Josh Ritter
Right Moves – Josh Ritter
Snow Is Gone – Josh Ritter