Josh Ritter and Andrew Bird - The Paradise Boston, MA - 9/12/03

Craig, Josh Ritter, Steph
After seeing Josh Ritter at the Rock in Rockingham music festival last month, we were excited about seeing him play at the Paradise to celebrate the release of his newest album Hello Starling. Andrew Bird was the opener, and he went onstage at 9:15. We had seen him accompany Kristin Hersh on several songs in Rockingham, but we had missed his much-talked-about solo set. We were glad to get a chance to see him play solo. He played violin, guitar, and xylophone (sometimes all three during the course of one song) and utilized on-the-spot tape loops to add layers of lushness to his sound. He was mesmerizing to watch. One of his songs included the lyrics of "We all live in a capital I" from "Sesame Street" - a song that hadn't even crossed my mind in at least 20 years. However, images from the accompanying cartoon flooded back to me. He played for about 45 minutes. I grabbed his setlist. He autographed it and said that he would be back in November playing the Middle East with Kristin Hersh.

Johnny Cash had passed away earlier in the day, and a Johnny Cash album was played in between Andrew Bird and Josh Ritter's sets. Josh hit the stage at around 10:30. He was wearing his trademark suit and red Chuck Taylors. "CASH" was written on his right hand, and he immediately dedicated the show to Johnny. During "Me & Jiggs", he replaced the line "Sitting on the porch singing Townes Van Zandt" with "Sitting on the porch singing Johnny Cash". It was a very touching performance. The audience loved Josh, and he just looked so happy the entire time. He was really appreciative of the crowd and everyone who had helped to make the new album a success. Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti joined him onstage for "Tonight You Belong to Me", the love song from the movie "The Jerk." Josh got the whole crowd singing along to an Irish song called "The Black Velvet Band", accompanied by a story of how he recently heard a recording of Aaron Neville performing an Irish drinking song (and he did a spot-on impression) which was hilarious. At encore time, Andrew Bird joined Josh and the band for "(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley", dedicated to Johnny Cash. It was quite touching. As an aside, Josh said that he first heard Johnny's version of the song on Live at San Quentin, so we should all pretend to be convicts. At the very end of the show Josh unplugged his guitar and stepped away from the mic to perform a completely acoustic version of "Lawrence, KS".

We had bought The Golden Age of Radio in Rockingham, and tonight we bought Hello Starling and Josh Ritter. Josh was greeting fans and signing CD's by the merchandise table. We told him that we first saw him in Rockingham, and Josh said that he remembered meeting me there. We had our picture taken with him, and he signed our CD's with our new silver Sharpie ("It's like magic!") He shook Craig's hand and gave me a hug and a kiss, and we said we'd definitely check him out the next time he played in the area.

It was a fantastic night. We celebrated the success of some up-and-coming performers, and we also celebrated the life of the legendary Johnny Cash.

Andrew Bird Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter Josh Ritter, Blake Hazard, John Dragonetti
Josh Ritter, Darius Zelkha, Zack Hickman Zack Hickman, Andrew Bird