Lamontagne commands Opera House
A review of Ray Lamontagne at the Opera House on October 9
Taking the stage at the Opera House to an uproar of cheering as people took their seats, Ray LaMontagne took his place at the right side of the semi-circle his band had created. This configuration was one that I hadn’t seen before but it really seemed to suit the dynamic of the band. LaMontagne had himself positioned so he was sort of sideways on the edge of the stage, not really facing the majority of the audience. It was clear that the importance of the night was the experience of the music not the performer himself.
Opening the show was “You Are The Best Thing” off of Gossip In The Grain, LaMontagne’s latest studio album which is set for release on October 14, and a flood of “I Love You” screams rang out from the audience (most came from the males in the crowd). The opening cords of the next song literally caused the audience to erupt with cheers and clapping, with some people even spontaneously jumping to their feet as LaMontagne began “Hold You In My Arms”.
The Opera House served as a great compliment to LaMontagne’s vocals and the intimacy made many in the audience feel like he was singing for and to them and only them. Between each song there were cat-calls, requests, and the constant “I love you” shouts. Occasionally these outbursts were funny, and at first they seemed genuine, but then it got pretty annoying, especially when the shouting starting happening in the middle of songs. LaMontagne’s vocal is not one that you want to miss out on because some guy next to you can’t stop screaming about how in love he is. And while we’re on the subject of me completely ranting, there should be a steadfast rule that when someone of the caliber of Ray LaMontagne is singing under a single spotlight, with just his acoustic, that is the most inappropriate time for one lone, off-key lady to think she should be joining in as back-up vocal. Okay, enough of the venting, back to what really matters.
As the lighting on stage darkened leaving the band highlighted in a faint yellow, things slowed down as a softer LaMontagne delivered “Empty” with an emotional heaviness that actually made the rambunctious crowd hold their collective breath until it was over. Switching gears a bit, LaMontagne invited opening act Leona Haess on stage where she helped out on the harmonies of a song in which the lyrics were harder to understand but sounded nice nonetheless. The next song had better vocal strength from Lamontange “Let It Be Me” also off of Gossip In The Grain is a song that definitely resonated with female fans. The lyrics are everything you want your boyfriend or best friend to say to you and the smooth, sweet delivery make the song that much more entrancing. After a couple more from the new album, LaMontagne shared his love song to Meg White, aptly titled “Meg White” with the audience before his band left the stage.
A mini solo set followed with Lamontange illuminated by a single faint blue light as he delivered a goose-bump producing “Burn”. After the following song the audience got a glimpse into the humor of Ray LaMontagne, after a burly, rather large sounding man shouted out yet another “I love you” Ray softly responded “That’s the kind of love a man can live without…I mean that in the nicest possible way” which got major laughs from the audience. This was the only time aside from his several thank you statements at the end of the show that LaMontagne would address the audience. It was entertaining to see him break from his serious side, even if just for a second. Ending Lamontange’s solo set was “Sarah” yet another of his new tracks. If this performance was any indication of how good the forthcoming album is, and since the show was primarily a showcase of Gossip In The Grain I can say that it probably is, I’d highly recommend adding this one to your music collection.
Joined on stage by his band LaMontagne kicked off a song with more of a country feel, “Hey Me, Hey Mama” played like a slowed-down hoe-down – it was fantastic. “You Can Bring Me Flowers” got the audience back to their shouting ways as they couldn’t help but sing with LaMontagne on the lyric “Sit and think / Drown in drink / And sing this sad, sad song / You can bring me flowers, baby / When I’m dead and gone.” Closing out the regular hit was the song that has probably had the greatest impact on LaMontagne’s career, “Trouble”, which was even more powerful live than on the album, as LaMontagne really laid everything he had on the stage. Quickly thanking the crowd as they rose to their feet LaMontagne left the stage.
Returning a full three minutes later during which the crowd never stopped cheering LaMontagne opened the encore by once again thanking the audience and taking a minute to introduce his band. Then came another of his biggest commercial successes “Shelter” which was highlighted by moments of LaMontagne singing with no support. A drum solo to open the next song got the audience on their feet as they band played what seemed to be an extended version of “Three More Days”. Thanking the audience once again LaMontagne and company left the stage. But as we all know the steadfast rule to concert attendance – you don’t leave till the house lights come up. It seemed the majority of the crowd knew this rule as they remained on their feet cheering riotously for two full minutes. LaMontagne returned to the stage in the single blue light we had seen before to perform a chilling acoustic rendition of “Jolene” accompanied by the quiet singing of the crowd before leaving the stage as the lights came up and the much deserved ovation continued.