Thursday, August 2, 2012

The joy of Josh Ritter

Wednesday night, Josh Ritter played at a local club, Cat's Cradle. As I mentioned yesterday, I rushed from the plane, which landed late, straight to Carrboro to catch the show. (I regret missing the opening act, but I arrived too late for it.) Less than five minutes after I reached the spot where I like to stand, Ritter bounded onto the stage.

When I say "bounded," I'm not indulging in hyperbole.  He quite literally moved by leaps, running and jumping his way to his guitar and then the microphone. A huge smile lit up his face, he backed up and screamed with what appeared to be sheer joy, and the show began.

Two hours later, the main set ended.  Less than five minutes later, he bounded onto the stage again, every bit as energetic as he was at the start, smiled as broadly as before, screamed again, and launched into a fifteen-minute encore.

If he wasn't singing a serious song, he was smiling whenever he could, during instrumental portions in songs, during breaks, any time he could.  The picture above is the best one I got, but you can't see his expression due to the lights (though you can see a larger version by clicking on it).  The joy of the music, the joy of performing, was always there, suffusing him, powering him, pouring out of him into the audience.

The audience responded with its own joy, and for two and a quarter hours all I saw around me were happy people.

The show marked the third time I've seen Ritter live, and it was easily the best.  I love his music, but even more I love how much joy and passion he brings to performing. This guy should be selling out stadiums, having number-one albums, enjoying a rep as a performer everyone knows. Instead, he's playing Cat's Cradle, not selling every ticket...

...and giving the show his all. 

In his wonderful song, "Snow Is Gone," Ritter sings this bit:
I'm singing for the love of it,
have mercy on the man who sings to be adored

I believe him.  I don't know him, but watching him perform, I utterly believe him.  I'm sure he has plenty of depressed times, and I have to believe that all the realities of his life are not to his liking, but when he steps onto the stage, he brings the joy. 

More, I believe he's right in those lines.  He really is, and I and every artist I know should listen to him.  

When I fret over the reception my writing receives, over how I'm selling or why I'm not winning awards or any of the other noise that fills my head, I would do well to recall these lines, smile, and take joy in the fact that I'm so very fortunate that people pay to read my stories. 

If you get a chance, go see Josh Ritter.  Bring your joy.  You can be damn sure he'll bring his.

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