Josh Ritter – Live at Union Chapel, London *****

Renowned American songwriter Josh Ritter thrilled the adoring Union Chapel faithful with a flawless performance on the first of two shows at the iconic venue.

A powerful Delta blues-soaked support set came from Ida Mae, with Chris Turpin getting full volume from his Resonator guitar and gritty, plaintive vocals that belie his years, and Stephanie Jean on vocals and percussion. The Nashville-based UK duo featured tracks from their debut Ethan Johns-produced album Chasing Lights, including Reaching, Love Is Still A Long Road and Feel Them Getting Closer.

Touring to promote his excellent tenth studio album, Fever Breaks, Josh Ritter bounded on stage with a broad smile which was to last for the next hour and three quarters. He was enjoying himself, with 800 adoring fans hanging on his every word. He was having a ball.

Backed by a band of keyboards, drums, bass and lead guitar, Ritter’s 21-song set contained seven tracks from his new album, including Old Black Magic, On The Water and Blazing Highway Home.

Ritter has a wonderful delivery, he connects intimately with his audience, his honeyed vocals are to die for, his guitar playing delicate and songs heartfelt.

Halfway through the set Ritter took the audience to another level, dispensing with his band he played three tracks solo. Three breathtaking songs; Silverblade, Adam and the incredible Gospel Of Mary.

The band returned for Girl and Ritter’s gorgeous vocals soared on Long Shadows. Then he and the band disappeared offstage with the stage lights extinguished, only to reappear high up in the pulpit of the church, the Union Chapel is a working church. With one mic between the band the result was spectacular with the bluegrass-tinged Old Old Fashioned and song of the night Kathleen.

Ritter finished his set with The Curse and returned alone for a mesmeric All Some Kind Of Dream. Beautiful. Enchanting. He deservedly received two standing ovations from the entire Union Chapel audience.

Words and Live Photo by Chaz Brooks

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