It's hard not to notice Josh Ritter when he sings. And by notice, I mean stare with awe and jealousy and wonder and joy. He plays the role of awe-shucks singer-songwriter well, like he picked up a guitar one day and tripped backwards into breathtaking ballads and amazes even himself at what's coming out of his mouth. It feels easy and natural — the infectious smile, the magnetism, the stage presence, the command of the room.
And it's hard to get past all that; there's a lot going on up there on stage even when it's simply Ritter, his guitar, no mic, and a dark room (as he performed "In the Dark" last night at the Beachland). He's the quintessential good-looking dude with a guitar and a golden voice that makes every man wish he could sing and strum and every girl wistfully melt. But then the music starts and the words come out and it's just the song, endearing and complex and catchy and impossible to ignore. When people gush over Josh Ritter the singer-songwriter, it's because of the songs, even if the rest of the package is pretty damn impressive as well. Always the songs.
During his stop in Cleveland last night there were many but highlights included: "Temptation of Adam," a addictive love story about a couple in a missile silo in a world on the verge of nuclear war; "The Curse," the haunting love story of a mummy and a museum worker that ends in heartbreak; "Good Man," which is just about the most hopeful song you could play for anyone to make them believe they deserve love; and "Idaho," which led off the evening.
Ritter thanked the Beachland for being one of the first venues to ever give him a show, joked about the mirror ball on the ceiling, and said some other stuff. Forgive me for not remembering much else, I was too caught up in the songs
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