Raleigh Ritchie (photo: Robert Alleyne)
“I promise you, I’m not stoned,” proclaimed Raleigh Ritchie as he told a story about looking at his hand and realizing it was the same hand he had as a child. The story was supposed to be a poignant intro to the introspective title track from his 2016 album, You’re A Man Now, Boy. Instead, the excitement of playing to a packed San Francisco venue on the last night of his whirlwind US tour had the Bristol-born singer somewhat giddy.
The set started with an explosive rendition of “Werld Is Mine”; Raleigh Ritchie, accompanied by a four-piece band, was inspecting every inch of the tiny Rickshaw Stop stage as he jumped, pranced and slammed his performance space. He exchanged his often relaxed, bass-heavy sound for a vibrant and energetic live sound which would tease with gentle intros before fiery and frenzied crescendos.
The whole show was an experience full of crowd participation. At one point, while the band played the classic Luther Vandross “All My Love” riff, he burst off stage for a little dance on the balcony. For “Never Say Die,” he split the crowd into three clean sections to orchestrate a chant of “Never. Say. Die.” All of this punctuated by his cheeky, and at times adorably nervous, onstage banter.
Towards the end of the set, he spoke about how he was surprised people knew his lyrics before recognizing it was “fucking cool,” if you did know them. The onstage banter often took that notoriously British tone of being almost apologetic for his music being so well received. Prior to performing “Stay Inside” he confessed how he thought no one would give a shit when he wrote it. In between the jumping, the irreverence, and the swearing, there was this appreciative undertone throughout the performance, it was the glue to the night.
Swedish band Flora Cash opened the evening with a series of melancholic, and at times sparse love songs. Singer-songwriter Shpresa Lleshaj even took the time to jokingly recognize that while her LA jacket was very Californian, it may not go down so well in SF.
Raleigh Ritchie ended his two song encore with “The Greatest,” and it left Rickshaw Stop buzzing. As some people escaped for the exit, and others hung by the bar for a final drink, I couldn’t help thinking that while he was not stoned, he may have left a few people high for their journey home.