A great band isn't necessarily a great live band, but Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band do everything they can to make sure they give folks a good time. It's almost like they have a "great live band" checklist. A raucous version of "Harrisburg" that turns into Talking Heads' "Once In a Lifetime" partway through (after a funny discourse on Valentine's Day through the years), only to return? A bass player (the incomparable Zack Hickman) with a crazy moustache? Calling extra people on stage to bang chopsticks together on the dark, rocking "Rattling Locks?" Sending everyone off to go solo with fingerpicked guitar on clever new track "Galahad?" Tossing guitar picks into the crowd like he was in Styx? Check marks all around.
The show was billed as a Valentine's Day Brawl, and it's clear Ritter and the band put thought into what that meant. At points he read dedications the audience had filled in online previously; one was even a proposal. The microphone stands were dressed in roses. Fan favorite "Kathleen" broke down into a slow dance partway through. I've praised Ritter's music here before, but there are bands that are great on album who are nothing special live. With Ritter and the Royal City Band, it's clear they care about putting on a great live show and making sure everyone has a good time. I can recommend seeing them live without reservation.