Melding two generations of folk-rock music at the Wilshire Theater in Los Angeles on April 17, John Prine and opening act Josh Ritter took the audience on an often mellow ride, injecting their musical stylings with humorous asides and anecdotes. Upfront and center first in front of the nearly capacity crowd (the theatre seats about 1900), an endearingly clearly nervous Ritter took to the stage alone. Though he was openly shaky about sharing billing with one of his idols, he delivered a seasoned performance even confidently stopping a song midway through to tell a story. One other crowd-pleasing trick? He turned off the lights for ‘Curses’ giving the audience a rare treat by forcing them to focus on the music as their other senses were blacked out.
The major event of the evening, Prine got right into the concert but his voice took a few songs to get back to the brooding clarity he is known for. In the first half of his set, his stories were mumbled and his voice scratched raspily over his superb guitar playing. Once warmed up though, Prine’s voice once again elevated his simplistic, rhyming choruses which his fans quickly responded to with increasingly enthusiastic cheers. An overall veteran performance, one long-time fan lamented wanting to have heard more of his classic hits.
One other bummer? The encore. Possibly not wanting to be outshined, Prine waited until the very end to allow Ritter back onstage and their encore only lasted one song! While young gun flubbed one of his lines, the fusion of their two voices was something truly special. It would have been a remarkable addition to revel in that blend for more than three minutes since that magic doesn’t come along every day.
(Photo: Ray Gordon)