Josh Ritter Free At Noon Concert – Photo by Liz Waldie |

Josh Ritter emerged onstage at WXPN’s sold out Free At Noon Concert at World Cafe Live today to the sound of hundreds of concertgoers singing him “Happy Birthday.” It was a totally unexpected gift, and Ritter gratefully thanked the audience, saying “That is the best way to start any concert.” This set the stage for what was an extra-special Free at Noon for Ritter — it was his three-year-old daughter’s first show too — and he didn’t disappoint.

Ritter began his set with the acoustic ballad “Naked as a Window,” before jumping into “Birds of the Meadow,” the first of many tracks that he would play from his just-released album Sermon on the Rocks. Never one to shy away from surprises, Ritter briefly finger-picked a cover of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild” in the middle of the song, before seamlessly transitioning back to the shooting guitar chords of the chorus. If the audience thought they had shocked Ritter with their performance of “Happy Birthday,” this blew that surprise out of the water.

Dressed in a paint-stained navy onesie coveralls, Ritter energetically jumped around the stage throughout his set, twirling in circles around his four-piece backing band in a giddy display of excitement. At times, he was unable to contain his boyish smile while singing. As he progressed through the set, Ritter began to calm down, performing two slower, country-infused tracks, “My Man On a Horse (Is Here)” and “The Stone,” both of which highlighted Ritter’s earnest vocals and guitarist Josh Kaufman’s inspired solos.

But this calm was short lived, as Ritter quickly jumped into the honky-tonk jam “Getting Ready to Get Down,” before finishing off the set with the upbeat single “Homecoming” as he looked up at his daughter watching him from the balcony.

Check out photos of the show below, and make sure to catch Ritter when he comes back to Philly on February 21st for a headlining show at Union Transfer.