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Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band – February 11, 2011

February 12, 2011 1 comment

Josh Ritter brought his Royal City Band to the House of Blues in Boston last night. It was the second night of his current tour, the first four shows of which are dubbed the Valentine’s Day Brawl. The stage was adorned in roses, and the show featured a slow dance, Josh reading audience dedications, Josh’s musings on the concept and history of Valentine’s Day, and a marriage proposal (with a resulting “yes”). All of this served to make for a highly entertaining and truly unique concert experience.

The opener for the evening was Scott Hutchison of Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit. Armed with just an acoustic guitar (and a beer), Scott performed 45-minutes-or-so of beautiful, if gut-wrenching songs about unrequited love, heartbreak and the like (including a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down”). Sadly, I was none too familiar with Scott’s work, something I need to rectify in short order. He was a great, honest, and seemingly very humble performer.

 

After a brief intermission, Josh Ritter (recently separated from his wife, fellow singer/songwriter Dawn Landes, which put an interesting twist on the Valentine’s Day theme) took the stage solo for a simple, sweet rendition of Bright Smile.

He was joined by the full band for the second song, Lillian, followed by a steady dose of songs from his two most recent releases, 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter and 2010’s So Runs The World Away. Josh typically wielded a guitar for most of the show, though the minimalist sound of “The Curse” found him armed with just a microphone (and his backing band)…

…while “Rattling Locks” had most of the band (and members of the crew) on percussion and Ritter himself on what may have been a harpsichord…

Midway through the impressive (Springsteenian?) two-hour main set, the band left Josh and he performed solo acoustic versions of “You Don’t Make It Easy Babe,” the post-apocalyptic “Temptation of Adam” and “Naked As A Window.” The band joined him for the last eight songs of the main set, which included “Girl In The War” which he dedicated to the protesters in Egypt, a stripped-down cover of Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” and audience favorites “Kathleen” and “Snow Is Gone.”

After a very brief intermission, Josh came back out and performed a solo version of the new song, “Galahad,” a humorous tale about Sir Galahad’s pursuit of the Holy Grail and his desire to get into heaven. Scott Hutchison came back for the next song and joined Ritter for a cover of the Everly Brother’s “Stories We Could Tell.”

The full band returned for the evening’s closer, the hopeful “Snow Is Gone.” Altogether, the band played twenty-four songs spanning most of Ritter’s career, and though his sound has evolved greatly since his early days at Oberlin as a folk singer/songwriter, the old stuff and the new stuff blended fairly seamlessly. There were very few lulls in the setlist, which is impressive given the number of solo acoustic or otherwise musically sparse songs that were played. Ritter and his band play with an enthusiasm and a positive energy that is increasingly rare in music, and seem to genuinely enjoy playing music for themselves and for their adoring fans, as evidenced by the ear-to-ear smile that Ritter wore for most of the evening.

Click here for more pictures that we took from the evening.

Click here for the full setlist (which is wrong – “Snow Is Gone” was not played twice; it was the closer of the show, while “To The Dogs Or Whoever” (abbreviated as “Dogs”) was the closer of the main set).

Revisiting “Ramones”

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the things that has been most interesting to me about writing and reviewing for Dying Scene over the last month has been getting a firm grasp on just how truly out of touch I am with the modern punk music scene. It is a scene that I was so into for so long, but in hindsight I was really just focusing on the same couple of dozen bands that were out in the mid-late 90s.  Turns out there are a lot of great bands out there, and that it can be much easier for a lot of them to get their music out there due to the rise of the Internet and sites like Bandcamp and Facebook.

Anyway, as out of touch as I have been about new music, it is also true that there are a lot of “kids” in the scene now who are equally as out of touch about the old stuff.  As a result, on of the original content ideas that we are going to work on at Dying Scene is revisiting some of the albums that really formed the scene and paved the way for the bands that are just now cutting their teeth. The first such album to get a new work-up will be the Ramones debut album, Ramones, released in April 1976. Figured we would start there as it is the 35th anniversary of the album credited by  most as being the first “punk rock” album. I’ll expound on this in some length letter, but I’ve gotta say, it has been quite fun giving Ramones a lot of thorough listens for the first time in a long time.

If you are/were a fan of any of the Ramones stuff, post some comments and I’ll gladly use them (and credit you, of course!).

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Reading List Update

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Periodic Reading List update…Date Finished                Book Name
1/8/11       I’m A Stranger Here Myself – Bill Bryson
1/9/11       Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin – Stephen Jay Gould.

In Progress

The Greatest Show On Earth – by Richard Dawkins

The Portable Atheist – Christopher Hitchens, editor

Without a Hero – T. Coraghessan Boyle

Random Notes

Most of “Full House” was quite good, though it tended to drag a little toward the end. Also, I don’t find that it was appropriately named.

Drunkards Walk was an excellent read, though it, too, lagged a little in the middle (I found myself not really caring too much about the background of some centuries-old mathematicians). Not sure why it took me so long to finish it.

2.3.11 was a long wait at the service department at the car dealership.  It allowed me to read a lot.  That’s the only good thing I can say about it.

“The Science of Fear” was one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. Examines why we think the way that we do, and particularly why we worry about the things that we really shouldn’t, and don’t worry about the things that we really should worry about! Excellent at helping you keep things in perspective, and to focus on only those things that you control. Takes primary aim at the culture of fear that crept up in our post-9/11, “everything is different now” world. Read it!