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Comic storyteller spreads the love

The dolphins helped him get here, apparently. Right after his boat broke down. And just before the goats took over. Yep, he's a funny chap, that Josh Ritter; full of humorous tales and quirky anecdotes. Oh, and he also does a nifty David Byrne impression.

But the best thing about this most excellent of musical storytellers from the US of A is that he feels like one of ours. Which might explain why most of his Dublin gigs almost always seem like a homecoming of sorts -- a reminder that this is where it all started to go right for the Idaho-born music maker. What's more, he knows it.

It's in the way he darts on to the stage the second the lights go down in Vicar Street for the first of two scheduled concerts in the capital. You can see it in that big goofy smile of his -- an infectious grin that rarely leaves his face. Then there's the delivery of the songs. Of course, this might be the way he presents his material every night, but there's something magical and magnificently energetic about this evening's performance.

Give him an acoustic guitar and he'll captivate you with his words. Take away his microphone along with most of the lights in the venue for a rather fitting performance of In The Dark, and he'll also change the way you think about live music. Not that he isn't capable of stirring it up; breaking a sweat -- rocking out with the very best of them.

That the smartly attired showman (34) manages to walk a fine line between Springsteen and Dylan without ever falling over the edge is a testament to his skills as one of the more interesting American songwriters of our time. Some prefer Ritter: The gentle folkster. Others, the dancing guitar man. Personally, it's the sight of a performer so obviously in love with his job that does it for me.

Highlights include the beautiful Change Of Time, the odd yet entrancing Sir Galahad (Google the lyrics to that one) and a rousing rendition of Harrisburg.

That his band of exceptionally skilful players ("my best friends") are more than up to the task of following Ritter through every twist and turn of the night makes it all the more enjoyable, especially when it comes to the frantic yet wonderful set closer, To The Dogs Or Whoever.

"Everyone deserves an awesome day," says Ritter, during another peculiar/endearing tale. From the looks of things, this was one of them. Tremendous stuff.