Hoooooh-boy guys. It's been a long, long time since I've gone off to a concert and really, powerfully wanted to bring the band home with me and keep them forever. I think the last time I wanted to kidnap someone was Andrew Bird the first time I saw him, many many moons ago.

I've had an entire day to think about it now, and I'm still convinced that Josh Ritter is magic and I wasn't just starving for entertainment. The first thing I mention is always the crowd though, so let's just get this out of the way: those that were standing still with their arms crossed were doing so out of shyness, not pretension. We all sung harmonies, we slow-danced with our neighbors, and no one pushed. So, points already in favor of the crowd.

Then there was the opening act: Scott Hutchison, of Frightened Rabbit fame. I've never been a big fan of Frightened Rabbit, but I remember seeing a bit of their set at Pitchfork a few years ago, and found them more endearing in person (I think it's the Scottish accents). And Scott, Scott... how to describe this. He came out on stage wielding a bottle of beer, which he waved at us in greeting. He then proceeded to play through "Modern Lepper," though he flubbed some of the words. I think at this point most of us were expecting it to be because he was drunk (he was), but he then launched into a story about how last time he was in Chicago (playing at the dreaded Double Door) during that song he'd become acutely aware that he had a hair stuck in his throat and that it was "pubic in nature." He'd suddenly remembered this during the song, throwing him off his train of thought, and now, yes, Chicago shows are associated with him having a pube in the back of his throat. (The reason for said pube was not elaborated upon, beyond "And I hadn't been anywhere near that... region... in a long time!") He waved the beer at us once again, took a sip, apologized for the story, and then announced that he had no set list and would just take requests.

It was pretty much awesome.

And then there was Josh. He bounced out onto the stage with his guitar and immediately started into a lovely acoustic song. I actually don't remember the name of it, because this is also the first concert I've been to in a long, long time where I knew no more than a third of the songs that were played (and what a way to be introduced to the rest of his catalog).

But here's the thing: all through the song and, in fact, all through the entire show, he was just unabashedly happy. He was bouncing up and down, he was grinning uncontrollably (I paused to wonder if he was maybe high), but it just seemed so unselfconsciously sincere I was pretty much immediately smitten. He waved his arms, he held his heart, he mimed hanging himself, he waltzed all by his lonesome across the stage to "The Curse". It's like he was so caught up in the music he couldn't help it. I've tried to figure out a good way to explain the complete inability I have to objectively look at this concert, because I spent an inordinate amount of time staring up at him thinking "Omg, if I could just keep you life would be so much better." It was kind of like the instinctive reaction you get when you look at one of these*. Kind of... contagious cheerfulness brought on by copious amounts of very large smiling.

His unbridled enthusiasm for playing music for us aside, he and his band are also freaking awesome. Even the slow stuff, which I normally zone out for at a show, was wonderful, and there were always lines that just made me, well... jealous, as a writer. Why can't I write "Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom / And the angels fly around in there, but we can't see them". Why can't I sing "What five letters spell "apocalypse" she asked me / I won her over singing "W.W.I.I.I." I mean, ugh, it's a love song but it's about the Cold War and ending the world and it's full of metaphors about nuclear power and... and... it turns WWIII into a bridge, darnit. (Also note the grin that keeps sneaking onto his face in the second link. It was like that all night. How can you not grin back?) Not to mention the questionably intentional degeneration of a monologue about the mayoral debates and midwestern weather into a cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime."

Anyway, point being: Josh Ritter--fantastic showman. Very charming. Wonderful music. Likely future subject for illegal cloning experiments.

* May not be true for [livejournal.com profile] apple_pathways, as I am not sure of her stance on sea creatures that are impossible not to personify. Should anyone have an adverse reaction to the above picture, do not assume any direct correlation to how you would react to seeing Josh Ritter perform.
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