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.
ReviewsJul 11, 2014
Basia Bulat / DestroyerMassey Hall, Toronto ON, July 10
For the fourth and final entry in this season's triumphant "Live at Massey Hall" series — a run of double bills at the storied old ven...
ReviewsDec 20, 2014
ConductThe Good Will Social Club, Winnipeg MB, December 19
It's been nearly a year since Winnipeg post-punk act, Conduct, recorded their debut album with Chicago's Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in...
ReviewsDec 20, 2014
AustraOpera House, Toronto ON, December 19
For the past three years, Toronto band Austra have established themselves as a force onstage, translating their spectral synth-pop into unfe...
ReviewsDec 13, 2014
Pharmakon / Marshstepper / LigatureLa Vitrola, Montréal QC, December 12
Noise outfits are not creatures born to be loved. But just as Santa can't be the merry obese old man he is without Krampus (or his French eq...