Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter released his eighth album, Sermon on the Rocks, last fall, leaving behind much of his familiar stripped-down acoustic style for a fuller, more instrumentally dense (and energetic) sound that he’s hinted at in the past but never so fully developed. The album has been well received, leading him to play two packed nights at the 9:30 Club last week.
Ritter opened the night with a solo acoustic rendition of “Idaho” from his 2006 album The Animal Years. He was then joined by his band – Josh Kaufman on guitar, Zack Hickman on bass, Sam Kassirer on keyboards, and Liam Hurley on drums – for the foreboding-sounding opening track of the new record, “Birds in the Meadow.” The backbone of the set was made up of tracks from the new album, with songs including “Young Moses,” “Henrietta, Indiana,” “Where the Night Goes,” and “Cumberland,” but older tracks weren’t forgotten.
Partway through the set, the band exited the stage, leaving Ritter to play several songs solo acoustic – “Snow is Gone” from 2003’s Hello Starling, “Change of Time” from 2010’s So Runs the World Away, and a cover of Roger Miller’s “Engine Engine #9.” He was then re-joined by Kaufman and Hickmen for a stripped-down version of “Bonfire” from 2013’s The Beast In Its Tracks before Kassirer and Hurley returned to finish out the set with “Kathleen” (also from Hello Starling) and “Getting Ready to Get Down” and “Homecoming” from the new record. The band returned to the stage for a two-song encore, “The Curse” (from So the World Runs Away) and “To the Dogs or Whoever” (from 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter).
Colorado-based folk band Elephant Revival opened the show.