Live Review: Simone Felice, Josh Ritter - Notes

9 July 2012 | 6:56 pm | Rob Townsend

Felice’s fine set had a gospel, singalong feel to it and gave a strong sense of this interesting and talented man’s background.

Josh Ritter's onstage presence was cheerful and charismatic and a big smile cracked his face when he told funny stories about rugby, koalas and, strangely, a spider called Nathan. Playing alone with an acoustic guitar that he really knew his way around, his songs ranged from witty (notably a set-closer about handjobs, angels and Sir Galahad) to heartbreakingly tender. An example of the latter was Folk Bloodbath, a “murder song” that belied its subject matter with its fragility and beauty. He also ended one song by howling like a wolf and sang the entirety of Girl In The War standing away from the mic. His performance was so engaging that he even managed to silence the chatty diners.

After a solo visit at the end of last year, Simone Felice returned fully armed this time round. The acclaimed author, Duke & The King frontman and former member of The Felice Brothers took to the stage with a band, including violinist Simi Stone, who provided lovely backing vocals. Slim of stature, the American troubadour filled interludes between his songs with stories from his troubled life. Early in the set he told of how, “they cut my chest open and put a new valve in my heart.” Later, he would speak of his daughter, Pearl, and how the buoyant You And I Belong had particular significance to him as he had written it the afternoon she was born. His between-song banter was funny and nicely juxtaposed the darker tone of much of his work. He explained how his mother was happy that he and his brothers' songs were finally being played on the radio, but questioned why they were all about drugs, whiskey, prostitution, rehab and more whiskey. To which he fittingly played the Felice Brothers' number, Don't Wake The Scarecrow, which tells of falling in love with a prostitute on heroin.

Felice's fine set had a gospel, singalong feel to it and gave a strong sense of this interesting and talented man's background.