Josh Rouse Is Totally in Charge

April 29th, 2013

Josh Rouse – The Bowery Ballroom – April 27, 2013

Usually if you look around a room, it’s the person who’s most relaxed who’s actually in charge. That was definitely the case on Saturday night at The Bowery Ballroom as Josh Rouse, with his easygoing vibe and laid-back sound—singer-songwriter folkie with a no-worry groove and a tinge of country—was in complete command. Rouse’s organic- honey voice was matched perfectly by a backing band that filled in with sweet-aroma guitar riffs and spring-breeze bass playing.

It turned out to be date night, couples of all stripes singing along as Rouse and his band played from his entire catalog, including most of his new album, The Happiness Waltz. These were the kinds of songs that you’d put on a mixtape for the girl you were sweet on, each tune seemed to be somebody’s highlight, with someone turning to a significant other to say, “This one’s my favorite!” Whether it was “Flight Attendant,” with its long intro and hint of a Latin beat, “1972,” with its nostalgic storytelling, or “Summertime,” with its delicious-watermelon groove, the crowd was rapt and the band was just chilling. Seventy minutes in and Rouse had barely broken a sweat with his hammock-swinging, lemonade-sipping repertoire, while the audience’s screamed requests grew increasingly desperate.

As the crowd thinned with couples heading out to catch a train, pay off the babysitter or do whatever it is that couples do after a commanding Josh Rouse set, the band closed with an appropriately sexy “Comeback,” laying down an acoustic disco that continued as Rouse left the stage. What could be more laid-back than having your band vamp a killer set closer while you chill backstage? Just in case the audience really believed Rouse and Co. hadn’t been working their butts off all night, they returned for a three-song encore of “Lemon Tree,” “Sad Eyes” and a high-energy “Love Vibration,” once again, leaving no doubt who was in charge. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno |