Last night was one of those inspired nights… when the force of two unique storytellers combine to make a beautiful old building sing. I was not that familiar with the work of Josh Ritter, who opened the show in solo acoustic mode, but after experiencing him live, he is an artist I will follow with great interest.
While looking like he was having the night of his life, Ritter tapped into the heart of everyone in the room, that part of us that is nurtured by story. And Ritter tells a good one… his lyrics, bringing to life the characters of which he sings and a great many of our own personal ghosts. Such is the skill of the man; his words and melodies open enough for the listener to step in and take their place in the story.
To pick favourites from his set seems contrary, but three songs have been circling my head all morning… Wolves, Good Man & Galahad. Here’s Josh in acoustic mode playing the incredibly funny Galahad (+ check the links to Wolves and Good Man… you won’t be disappointed):
And then the stage was set for Simone Felice to make his much anticipated return… With three piece band in tow, a recently cropped Felice walks silently on stage, tunes his brilliant white Gretsch and delivers opener, New York Times with an intensity that never waivers. Like Ritter, the strength of Felice’s work is in its deep humanity. His voice – part plaintive whisper, part ragged howl – is direct, speaks to the frayed lover in us all. Again, highlights were plenty, but for me it was hard to go past the hauntingly beautiful, Don’t Wake the Scarecrow:
Closing the set, Simone wore his love for fellow singing/songwriting drummer, the recently departed Levon Helm, well and truly on his sleeve, playing inspired covers of Neil Young’s Helpless, Springsteen’s Atlantic City and Dylan & The Band’s epic, I Shall Be Released.
I could rave on throwing superlatives around, but let’s just say it was restorative… after struggling with the flu this past fortnight, the heart today is buoyant, the mind open… such is the power of song in the hands of two, fiery talents.