Posited in the alcove, we peered out through the stage door and watched as Josh Ritter and his compatriots tore through a set list of classics and new material at the wonderful Beachland Ballroom last evening. It was our fourth trip in as many years to see Josh, and just as in years past, he stayed after the show until every fan had paid their respects, chatted about anything that struck their fancy, and posed for the requisite photograph with that same wide grin he wears so naturally on stage. This is a man who loves his job, and his fans.
Being that his music has played a significant role throughout my own relationship with Katie (I gave her his cd on our first date, and we've been diehards ever since), it was with some surprise that he appeared on stage with a wedding band on his finger. After the show, Katie asked him if it was true (thus breaking the heart of my sister and thousands of girls everywhere), and he happily revealed that he married Dawn Landes five weeks ago. We congratulated him on his nuptials and thanked him for the postcard he mailed to us from Alaska congratulating us on our own marriage last fall (seriously, he took the time to write us a postcard and mail it; I told you he loves his fans).
The show, as always, was a high energy singalong for the nearly sold out crowd; the biggest I've seen for any show of his save Bonnaroo in 2005. Girls nearly wilted when he crooned the opening lines of "Kathleen": "All the other girls here are stars, you are the northern lights...", and hundreds of feet stamped in unison to "Lillian, Egypt" and its' rollicking old west saloon piano. The lights were snuffed out for the poignant and beautiful "Harrisburg", and three little girls in attendance with their parents got the memory of a lifetime when he brought them on stage to sing along with "Leaving".
The night passed too quickly, as enjoyable evenings often do, and we were soon walking back to our car, feeling that post-concert excitement that only good shows can provide. It's always a pleasure to catch up when the band rolls into town, a sort of rite of passage every summer. I've got no misconceptions that in actuality he probably couldn't pick us out of a lineup, and that he has fans just like us in every major city in the country, but the fact that he makes every single person feel appreciated is undeniably unique for an artist of his stature. I know it means a lot to us, and it will keep us coming back for many glorious years to come.