THE POWER OF LAMONTAGNE'S PAIN

Words by Jessica Lopa :: Images by Adam McCullough

Ray LaMontagne :: 12.16.06 :: Beacon Theater :: New York, NY


Ray LaMontagne :: 12.16 :: NYC
Ray LaMontagne walked out onto the dimly lit stage at the Beacon Theatre surrounded by several acoustic guitars, a pedal steel guitar, and a minimal drum kit. The lack of traditional instrumental accompaniment fueled curiosity and forced one to wonder if LaMontagne somehow feared the backing of a full band? Within the first two or three bars of his opener, "Empty," LaMontagne made his intentions clear; with LaMontagne, it's just the essentials.

A hushed strumming guitar carried by weightless percussion brushes and harmonic pedal steel echoes kept LaMontagne's storytelling in "Empty" at the center of attention. The arrangement has a momentum that is poetically and technically balanced. The melody is sung effortlessly in proportion over the slow harmonic changes of his guitar and steadily cruises, while delivering images nothing short of hypnotic.

Whispers from the crowd imitating the breathy storyteller on stage never reached a volume that interfered with the performance. Most of the set's seventeen songs reached their pinnacle by way of formulated emotional dynamics. His attention to detail is magnificent.


Ray LaMontagne :: 12.16 :: NYC
It was during the final chorus of "Barfly" where LaMontagne's improvisations made the crowd believe in his yearning and demanded ultimate respect for his craft. The song's sentiments, rooted in apprehension and isolation, were redeemed and magnified through his ad lib phrases. The refrain, "Kiss me before you go, I'm going nowhere," through repetition evolves into a revealing affirmation.

Rather than place the listener at a distance, the literary settings of LaMontagne's lyrics frequently evoke the situation from which they were born. In the vulnerable and isolated "Burn," LaMontagne is emotionally stagnant from the loss of love, reaching out for companionship, singing, "Oh mama don't walk away. I'm a god damn soldier. I'm so lonesome without you. I will stand here and burn in my skin."

In a provocative and elicit reading of "Jolene," LaMontagne was deliberate and honest. With its chronic refrain of "Still don't know what love means" the song ends without an emotional resolution. LaMontagne is not cured of his hardships.


Ray LaMontagne :: 12.16 :: NYC
"You Can Bring me Flowers" with its swinging 3/4 meter and blues-soaked delivery brought a welcoming harmonic edge with the addition of trumpet and flute, which made it stand apart from the rest of the set. Dominant drum fills supplied the open arrangement with an elusive and suspicious air.

There is a great disparity between the melancholy mood of "Gone Away" and the bold "Hold You In My Arms." They lay in stark contrast to one another yet lie back to back in the set list. The lyrical arpeggios of "Gone Away" contrasts the sadness that dominants the main storyline. "Hold you In My Arms," with its pronounced strumming and tight playing, revived the hopelessness of the former. "Hold You In my Arms," perhaps LaMontagne's most confident display, provides the listener with words to live by.

Fleeting confidence is gathered and transformed in "Shelter" and "Three More Days," where, for the first time all night, there were no lingering doubts. Strengthened by horns, "Three More Days" was fresh and exciting. LaMontagne's voice stretched out the last chorus. His ability to sing the same phrase over and over in different ways reveals true beauty and creativity.

Ray LaMontagne's musical program spanned the full spectrum of human emotions. From arousing, pleasurable moments to the lowest, most desperate times, LaMontagne's music finds and delivers truths about the human condition with poetic omniscience.

JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 1/9/07]

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Comments

Foominaut Tue 1/9/2007 09:57PM
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Foominaut

still havent heard this cat yet, I want to though!...I ahvent got into his new album yet. The first one was great though!

loopin Tue 1/9/2007 11:05PM
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the man is a powerful performer, can't wait for the next pass through the northwest.

pat5507 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/10/2007 07:01AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pat5507

go see him! He's fantastic. He has so much passion. Great article

ambermoon3 starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/10/2007 08:15AM
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His concert was the highlight of my holiday season when I saw him in December in Atlanta. He is breathtaking in that there seems to be no physical engagement with the audience, yet once his voice takes hold of the air in the room everyone is spellbound. Even in a room filled with people who, rowdy one minute before, quiets to a church-like hush to catch every nuance of the passion of the emotional longing exhibited in these songs.

duncan121 starstarstarstar Wed 1/10/2007 08:57AM
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"Quiets to a Church hush"? Not in Dallas. Dumb ass frat boys wouldn't shut up when I saw him at the Gypsy Tea Room. Seriously though the new album IMHO is better than the first. The ethral backing sounds take his soul into a more atmospheric and thicker place. It's quiet like the first album but the production on this album give is more depth. Ambermoon3 said it right. Guy not very engaging live but when you sing like he does you don't have to be.

Adam T.s. Wed 1/10/2007 02:52PM
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Adam T.s.

Saw him at a small venue this summer after seeing him at Bonnaroo a couple years ago. The small venue definetly served his intimate style better. Met him after the show and it amazed me how someone could be so talented yet so humble at the same time.

keepthesoul Sun 1/28/2007 11:47AM
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The new album is kind of hurt. flutes and flamenco guitar? And about Ray's pain..."You do it to yourself, you do...and that's what really hurts"

o0treehugger0o starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/20/2007 11:15AM
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o0treehugger0o

The man has heart. Heart to be envious of! Is the music not engaging enough? That's his connection to the audience. He knows what's up. Met him after the show I saw in Louisville and, Adam's right, he's incredibly humble. What's wrong with flutes and flamenco gutar?