Although the Old Fruitmarket, in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City, isn’t quite the 5,000 years old Josh Ritter suggested it is, there are still over 120 years of history contained in the venue, which was still a functioning market until the 1970’s. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the building, which still retains its market hall character with the names of traders adourning the surrounding balcony and the floor having the feel of paved streets beneath ones feet.
It was the perfect backdrop for this acoustic evening where Josh and his band gave his back catalogue a subtle string reworking. The stage was laden with guitars and double bass and the different musical arrangement allowed him to explore areas of his past you might not expect to hear at a regular concert, such as the double from last year’s Bringing In The Darlings EP, which prompted Josh to ask the audience if there is a Scottish equivalent of the word darling. Doll, I believe, was the uncompromising response.
This was a delicate and sophisticated performance – almost verging more on theatre from a seat in the front row where every pluck of a guitar string and pronunciation of a word was evident. The current album The Beast In Its Tracks was of course highlighted, and the sorrow of the break-up album was given greater depth here with Hopeful stripped bare, A Certain Light basking in charm and Josh clearing the stage to perform Joy To You Baby without a microphone.
Amongst other highlights was the performance of The Curse in darkness, a haunting Girl in the War and the uplifting climax to the main set with Lilian, Egypt and the always beautiful Kathleen. In a perfect world this would have been the ideal way to send the audience home. It was an epic combination to conclude the set, one which it felt the night was building towards. This is often the problem with the encore, and the return to the stage for a Willie Nelson cover and Waiting For Love just didn’t carry the same significance.
An intimate venue with a history dating back to the mid-1800’s provided the ideal setting for the most delicate of acoustic evenings. Josh Ritter is a performer who smiles almost constantly through his show, and by the end of Tuesday night that smile had spread across a few hundred faces by the end of a truly enjoyable gig.