Every live performance Josh Ritter delivers is a little gift to the people in the audience. I’ve learned over the years that there’s no point in fearing disappointment because he always delivers an amazing show. I’ve also learned that my final judgement on any new Ritter album has to wait until I hear the songs at a concert.
Fever Breaks has a lot of tunes built for a live setting. “Old Black Magic” is one of the hardest rocking songs Ritter has written, and it’s a beast when they play it in front of you. Josh Kaufman’s guitar explodes through the solos in every song, and it is here that we finally witness his full power as a guitarist.
Other songs, like “On The Water” and “Blazing Highway Home,” become even better when you’re locked in focusing on the performance. “On The Water” moved way up my rankings of the songs on Fever Breaks based on witnessing it live. “The Torch Committee” comes off exactly as you would hope-dark, relevant, and too close to home to be a work of total fiction.
This was the first time I ever paid extra to do a meet and greet before the show. With Ritter being one of my favorite artists, I figured it would be a good chance to tell him as much. I’d met him once before, in 2011, after his soundcheck at a church in Austin. He was warm and gracious. At this event in Chicago he was that, but also curious and charming. He asked questions and paid attention, like he really cared about each individual that was there.
Then he played a 5-song acoustic set for just those that paid extra. It was a nice little run through some older songs that he doesn’t play in his main set very often anymore. He asked if there were any requests and a couple people yelled out “Wolves,” to which I nodded in agreement. He took some questions from the audience, but nothing earth-shattering was revealed.
All photos by Kari Terzino