The Captivating World of Ray LaMontagne

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[image source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_LaMontagne] A few weeks ago I had the awesome experience of seeing Ray LaMontagne live.  The show was at the Hershey Theatre, making it one of the closest concert options from Bucknell.  The venue is a small, old-style theater that usually hosts stage shows so it offered the perfect intimate setting for LaMontagne’s mellow acoustic performance.

It was my first time seeing Ray in concert and I can honestly say that his talent blew me away.  His voice is so powerful yet maintains a gentle folk quality and he transitions flawlessly between these two vocal extremes.  He played both acoustic and electric guitar, relying on the latter primarily for his latest release, Supernova.  Additionally, a full band, complete with guitar, drums, keyboards, and an impressive upright bass, accompanied him.  This combination created a very intricate live sound that was arguably better than any of Ray LaMontagne’s studio albums.

While I definitely appreciate Supernova and Ray’s most recent work, I was most excited for what are, in my opinion, his classics like “Trouble” and “Jolene”.  I sensed that most of the crowd felt similarly to me, but Ray crafted an ingenious solution through his set list.

The show started with “Lavendar”, a favorite from Supernova and continued through the majority of the album.  However, halfway through the concert, Ray transitioned to a completely acoustic set with only himself and his bass player on stage.  While the 70s-style groove of the first half of the show was amazing, the return to his acoustic past was absolutely mesmerizing.  I got my wish in this portion of the show as he played “Jolene” and “ Trouble” as well as “Burn” and “Sarah”.

Ray left the stage shortly after the acoustic set, returning for a lengthy three-song encore.  “Hey Me, Hey Mama” was a fun full-band jam while “Drive-In Movies”, one of my top picks from Supernova, brought back the dreamy acid rock quality.  The standout was “You Are the Best Thing” with a completely different arrangement from the studio album.  The intense trumpets and choir were forgotten, replaced with a slower tempo and softer version.  It was the perfect conclusion to a surprising and perfect concert.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P0QfPxRs3o

My only regret was not getting my own photos and videos during the show. While there wasn’t an explicit rule against it, the crowd was intensely aware of the music.  It was the only show that I have been to where I can honestly say that I couldn’t see a single cell phone in the darkness of the crowd.  Ray LaMontagne was captivating, and who was I to disturb that peace?