Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Josh RItter - Scott Hutchinson -- 9:30 Club - Feb 14 2011

Scott Hutchinson - His name may not be familiar, but this Scottish songwriter fronts the very popular Frightened Rabbit. I've seen his band a couple of times and at the last show, he played a song or two by himself. It certainly showed then that he could hold the interest of a sold-out crowd, and he did it again tonight for 45 minutes. He has got fine material and took requests (most of them anyway) so the crowd was involved. Although at first request, there were many shouts which lead to his commenting "well, I didn't get any of those. You guys look like you are waiting for the Black-Eyed Peas with those Day-Glo sticks (must have been passing them out to people coming in because they were everywhere)." Eventually the requests were more audible and he did almost all of them. He has great personality and can handle a crowd with his banter. But of course, it does not stop there as his Frightened Rabbit songs are good enough to be played on one guitar with his fine voice on top. I was not surprised that this was a successful set.
Josh Ritter - I reviewed his latest CD for Folkworld and it was one of the best things I had heard of the 60 or so CDs I listened to. It made my Top Ten Folk CDs of last year, although it is not simply a folk record. Ritter is a song writer extraordinaire with Americana, folk, light rock and classic songwriter type sounds  present. He has a great voice that hits the middle range with strength and feeling. In fact, it was amazing to watch a sold-out crowd hush itself enough so he could bring it down to an audible whisper. Late in the set, he even went off mic, turned the pick-ups off on his acoustic and played to the crowd with a sing-along where you could still hear his guitar. He played several songs solo and had various band members on stage for most of the set. He had a rhythm section, lead guitarist and three guys on brass at times. The real star was the keyboardist who had really hot piano moves and played a touch of organ, too. The band was solid, but it was all about the songs. Ritter can really turn a phrase and build a melody with smooth deft flourishes. It makes it look simple, as most great songwriters do. He and Richard Thompson top my list as the best active songwriters currently working (not counting the Hall of Fame guys like Dylan and Cohen and the like whose back catalog is where their classics exist). Ritter also had great personality and energy tonight. I had forgotten about Valentine's Day as I showed up alone and thought that between Hutchinson and Ritter, I would get weary of the comments. Thankfully the humor was good and Ritter also had a feature where he read dedications from people at the show which were alternatively touching and very funny. There was even the marriage proposal with its shouted acceptance.  The best laugh was "Danielle, Josh Ritter has nothing on me." This was a good touch. It sounded like something on the Prairie Home Companion, only it was funny. He played for nearly two hours prior to the encore. His bantering and the music were balanced and of such high quality, the time flew by. Josh Ritter is one of the best at what he does. May he have continued success.

Quote of the Night: There were many but I will add another Scott Hutchinson moment as he began singing his song "Head Rolls Off".

"Jesus is just a Spanish boy's name."
"I was not trying to be funny, but I was 20 years old...It does have a serious message--songwriters are dickheads."

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