Rain can’t stop LaMontagne from shining

A review of Ray LaMontagne at the Bank of America Pavilion on June 1, 2011

, Contributing Writer

On Wednesday night, a massive storm barreled through Boston, bringing rain, wind and lightning in abundance. As lightning like camera flashes continued to pop up in the background, Ray LaMontagne hit the Bank of America Pavilion stage after a 30-minutes delay and proved that no storm could stop the New England troubadour from shining on his home turf.

Earlier in the evening, Brandi Carlile played on her 30th birthday, and enthusiastically burnt through a mixed set that included a cover of “Forever Young,” while the storm gathered. By the time her set closed, it seemed clear that the show would have to take a backseat to the weather going on around the harbor side Pavilion.

LaMontagne seemed unaffected by the delay, only good-naturedly thanking the crowd for sticking around, before starting his set out alone with his acoustic, playing “Like Rock & Roll & Radio” while the audience settled back into their seats from watching lightning show. His soul-folk voice and country-flavor have made him an ever more popular artist since his hit, “Trouble,” a song with a stylistic eye turned to the past of old country and blues songs with a slow down message updated for our current hectic present.

The full Pariah Dogs band joined him after the opening song, giving LaMontagne a bit of a Neil Young circa-Harvest sound with a 70’s singer-songwriter warmth and pacing for the rest of the show. The band mostly kept things mid-tempo, working through songs like “Hold You in My Arms” and “Beg, Steal or Borrow”. On “Repo Man”, however, a song with a twangy kick, the band took it up a notch and brushed off the funk. The Secret Sisters, who opened the show with their quiet acoustic laments and angelic harmonies, joined LaMontagne for a cover of country legend Merle Haggard’s gorgeous “Mama Tried”, in what was certainly a highlight of the night.

As the set wore on, the crowd came more and more back into focus solely on the show, especially as the storm waned. The crowd got up for “New York City’s Killing Me”, cheering along to the chorus, perhaps partly because it’s that time of year again for the Red Sox Yankees rivalry. On the delicate “Shelter You”, the crowd got silent – always spine tingling thing to witness when there are hundreds or thousands of people gathered in one place. LaMontagne continued throughout the set in business like fashion, focusing on the songs and at times seemingly barely aware of the audience’s presence, only occasionally acknowledging applause at the end of a song.

LaMontagne finished off the night with a series of extraordinary vocal performances, first on the aforementioned hit “Trouble”, which got enthusiastic screams for the crowd, and then on “Jolene”, a tender song that is one of many LaMontagne songs to bring the classic country archetype to a new generation. During the encore, he played “Let it Be Me”, a hold-your-partner type of song that beautifully closed the show out and left people to walk out into the now calm and cloudy night.

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