Josh Rouse has been releasing albums for 15 years now, and by the looks of the crowd Saturday night at Bowery Ballroom, most of his fans have been there since the beginning. There were a handful of 20-somethings, but the majority of the audience consisted of late-30-somethings and 40-somethings, around the same age as Rouse himself, who were clearly out for a night on the town. My favorite, a woman in the front by the stage, let out a blood-curdling “YOOOOW!” approximately every 37 seconds throughout the entire show, including the silent moments when “yow”-ing is not the most appropriate thing to be doing. But, she was clearly having the time of her life, and it’s hard to find fault with that kind of dedication.
Rouse, backed by a stellar three-piece band, played a staggering 19 songs in his normal set alone. Though he is promoting his newest album, The Happiness Waltz, Rouse’s set consisted mainly of oldies and goodies that were greatly appreciated by the crowd. The appreciation went both ways however, as Rouse noted that he was excited to see audiences sing along to the new songs as well. “The new ones are good too, Josh!” an audience member shouted in reassurance.
Rouse wasn’t much of a talker on stage and he didn’t really need to be: The crowd was in the palm of his hands before he strummed his first string. He is a consummate professional. After playing for a solid 90 minutes, the guy barely broke a sweat, moving seamlessly from track to track, cracking out crowd pleasers like “Come Back (Light Therapy),” “Dressed Up Like Nebraska,” and, my personal favorite, “My Love Has Gone,” with nary a flaw to be heard.
“You can sing along if you know it,” Rouse encouraged the crowd (as if they needed it) before he began “1972.” From the moment he sang the first line, just him and his guitar, everything seemed to just stop. Even the “yow” lady simmered down a bit and got into the lazy but beautiful flow of the song, creating one of the more special moments of the night. Encores are common and obviously expected with a show like this. What is less common, however, is having audience members thank the performer for coming back. A wave of “Thank you, Josh,” rippled through the crowd as Rouse aptly capped off the night with “Love Vibration.”