Josh Ritter / Basia Bulat
Capital Music Hall, Ottawa ON October 25
London, ON-based folkie Basia Bulat started the night with a brief but ebullient set, cooing rustic love songs over guitar, ukulele and autoharp. A Polish song about a lovers' visit to the zoo was a definite highlight, and her enthusiasm was contagious; a yearning take on "If Only You" off Heart of My Own elicited a similar response as Bulat's warble matched the stomping rhythm.
But the crowd was there for Ritter and it showed. Backed by the four-piece Royal City Band, the Idahoan troubadour tore through an energetic and thorough set spanning his entire discography. Ritter began with the gentle "Lantern" off this year's So Runs the World Away, but thankfully wasn't content to simply stand and strum. Over the course of the night, he and the band swung from lullaby-tempo odes to rockers to extended improv jams, working surprisingly tight grooves.
Not the self-serious type, Ritter broke up the performance with absurdist banter about potatoes and cows. And his sense of humour bled into the songs too, from the mummy-in-love yarn of "The Curse" to the folk-figure cage match of "Folk Bloodbath." The sweet "The Temptation of Adam" was a clear favourite, an apocalyptic romance set in a missile silo.
Towards the end of his set, Ritter brought the lights down and led attendees through a hushed rendition of "In the Dark"; the tune climaxed with full-scale lighting mimicking a sunrise, bringing rapturous applause as the room lit up slowly. You would be hard-pressed to find a concertgoer whose smile didn't match Ritter's as he and his band took their bows. Ritter might be a ham, sure, but he's a winning one.
ReviewsJan 24, 2015
Rachel RiesThe Company House, Halifax NS, January 23
After opening her solo Dead of Winter set with a sad, soulful track titled "Adrian," Vermont and NYC-based singer-songwriter Rachel Ries exp...
ReviewsJan 24, 2015
Devin Cuddy BandThe Company House, Halifax NS, January 23
Considering that he's dabbling in some of classic rock'n'roll's most rollicking, fevered sounds, the first half of the Devin Cuddy Band's De...
ReviewsNov 13, 2014
Ryan Adams / Butch WalkerMassey Hall, Toronto ON, November 12
Few musicians are as prolific and proficient at songwriting (and pot-smoking) as Ryan Adams is, so performing at a venue with a super-strict...
ReviewsNov 10, 2014
Blue Rodeo / Adam Baldwin / Carleton StoneRath Eastlink Community Centre, Truro NS, November 9
No, you're not misreading things: Nova Scotia Music Week's headline act this year was Toronto's Blue Rodeo. Bringing in an outside act ...