Photo Credit: Daniel Robson
An ominous instrumental is brought in by the band, to cheers from a packed O2 Academy. Heads lean, necks are strained and toes are tipped upon by all in search of the man himself, Raleigh Ritchie. Over a minute has passed now and the applause has half morphed into exclamations of “Where the f*ck is he?!”. Seemingly in response, onto the stage stomps Ritchie, exploding into his first song to an ovation triple the volume of the initial cheers.
The energy that he bounded in with is one that is maintained throughout the night, giving impassioned performances in every verse and chorus sung. Ritchie takes full advantage of the lack of an instrument holding him down, making sure his light up sneakers touch every inch of the stage (and the drummer’s platform). His songs are emotional on record but reach a new level of integrity live. It’s something I know to be genuine too after interviewing him for PearShaped before the show, in which he made it clear that making personally intimate songs is vital to his song writing ethos.
Indeed, it was a night of emotion for not just Raleigh Ritchie. Mid way through the evening a man by the name of Adam is invited up from side stage. Most have their suspicions as to why this may be, but as soon as he addresses his girlfriend we all know. She is stood on one of the two stairways that almost overhang the stage, and after an unnecessary apology to the crowd for interrupting the show, dropping to one knee, he proposes. The following roar from the crowd almost surpasses those for Raleigh Ritchie, and is only trumped by the one accompanying Adam’s now fiancé saying “yes.”.
As the set resumes, many glance back up to that staircase to see her placing the ring on her finger, to a generous helping of tears. Despite being informed prior to my interview that Ritchie had been on vocal rest for fear of losing his voice during the show, he gives a strong performance, without any noticeable falter. His band share a similar success. The songs sound very much like they do on record, and whilst this is partially down to the use of backing tracks for the more abstract electronic elements, it is also a testament to their ability as musicians. It was also nice to see them every so often be allowed to diverge from the album versions of the songs, adding in the odd guitar, drum, or bass solo.
It seems that Ritchie has a similar respect for them, making sure to announce their names, and frequently selecting ‘we’ as the choice of pronoun. It’s clear that they are friends, and this certainly adds to the celebratory moods that occupy many of Ritchie’s songs. He even surprised them and thoroughly put them on the spot by introducing the crowd to a clapping game usually reserved for their pre-show warm ups.
Ritchie saves fan favourites (my favourites, anyway) Bloodsport and Stronger Than Ever for near the closing of the show. Whilst these songs certainly provided my favourite performances of the night, what the evening all together demonstrated is just how strong Raleigh Ritchie’s catalogue is already – especially in a live setting where bass is provided more head room. Everyone dancing to Keep It Simple was another highlight. All together it was an exceedingly fun show, just as much due to Jacob Anderson’s personality, as the quality of his songs. It was well worth the drive north to Bristol, and I highly recommend anyone capable of witnessing his festival performances this summer to leap at the opportunity.