The entire band was in full costume: Ritter as “Optimus Prime”, the base player as “Take the Mummy and Run”, drummer as “Marquis de Chaveis”; and guitarist and keyboardist as “Restless Heart” (“They're big in Buffalo”). This wit filled the show, as did the grin of Ritter as he ran through a great selection of songs from both Conquests and The Animal Years. Some highlights (in not necessarily the correct order): “Mind’s Eye”, “Monster Ballads”, “Wolves”, “Real Long Distance”, “Empty Hearts”, “Right Moves”, “Rumors”, “The Temptation of Adam”. The greatest treats however was their tribute to the holiday by performing multiple covers (Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and Johnny Cash’s “Crystal Chandeliers and Burgundy”), the show-ender “Lillian, Egypt”, and the crowd-favorite “Kathleen”—dissected with a full recital by Ritter of the speaking line from the “Thriller” video. Wicked, indeed.
Going into Workplay Theatre, I expected a more laid-back, lounge/piano bar feel, having not spent much time with the latest two albums but rather Hello Starling (still a great album). But it was rife with fast-paced, folksy foot-stompers. Ritter’s interaction with the audience was also spectacular: complimenting costumes, inviting two ladies on stage to sing “Empty Hearts”, allowing a fan to strum the guitar on “Distance”. His excellent song-writing and genuine showmanship has endeared me to Ritter for the long run.
Update, 11/5/07: This Saturday, I spoke with the owner of Laser's Edge record store in Homewood which held an in-store performance from Ritter after the show. Ritter played 9-10 songs acoustic at the store, a performance which started after midnight and must have lasted until close to 2 AM, all while still wearing his costume and no shoes. The performance was recorded, and the owners of Laser's Edge stated they wouldn't be surprised if it was released in some form down the road.