Tonight Ray LaMontagne played Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater to what appeared to be a capacity crowd. There was a strict no photo policy, meaning there was a woman in a yellow shirt running around and taking her job way too seriously, but who needs photographs to remember the sonic beauty that can only be the product of one man’s vocals. Ray’s voice melted the crowd’s hearts and was as comforting and relaxing as a broken in pair of blue jeans. Accompanied by a multi instrumentalist, a drummer, and a bass player, material was culled from all three of the soulful singer songwriter’s albums with the same gentleness and emotion that can be found on record. There was no glitz, no glam, and very little whooping from the mostly silent audience. There was no gaudy image painted on a banner behind them, a modest light show, and no large effects filling the airspace. It was a stripped down performance that was perfectly fitting for such a crowd that was merely there to listen to the strength of voice of one man alone.
For most of the show, our hero on this particular evening stood in the same exact spot on the stage and flooded the ears of his listeners with tales of new love, lost love, and heartbreaking genius. I kept thinking to myself that it was a shame that this show wasn’t played on this past Saturday, a day that saw the changing of the seasons pass before Milwaukee’s eyes with the movement of the hands on a clock. Just like that particular day, Ray LaMontagne’s songs can be reminiscent of the winter frost that dangles off of winter beards, gently greets you on a spring morning, breezes and billows through the windows and ruffles the curtains on comfortable summer afternoon, and chills you to the bone like the first feeling of the crisp fall air. “Empty” was particularly intense in this regard as it sucked every breath, leaving the crowd gasping for air and yearning for more at the same time. Songs like “Shelter” and “Trouble,” played successively, were just as sweetly punishing live as I had hoped they would be. Not once did his voice crack or falter. Truly, if you are a fan of his and have not seen him, you must.
Near the end of the show Ray’s ear caught a gentlemen in the crowd shouting “we love you Ray,” to which he answered, “It’s always the guys. I don’t know what to do with all this man love.” To this I just shook my head in a positive way. His music has the power to bring out emotion in even the stoutest of hearts. I remember often times when troubled or contemplative, putting on Till the Sun Turns Black and just meandering through the streets of my town while cigarette paper burned and negative thoughts evaporated. This meditative performance will go down in my heart and mind as one of the calmest and calming that my ears and eyes have ever witnessed. Thanks again Riverside/Pabst/Turner. If you bring them, we will come!
Love it. Are you a fan of Colin Hay? He is in next week.
Thanks man. Gotta be honest, the only Colin Hay song that I know is the one on the Garden State Soundtrack.
I was at the Ray LaMontagne Concert at the Riverside; first row of the Mezzanine. It was my first concert of his, but I have been listening to Ray since the release of “Trouble”. The show was outstanding! You’re right, his music does “melt hearts”. It makes the soul feel alive. I think his voice and rhythms really get to people. It does to me. When I called out “We love you Ray”, it just…happened. I was in shock-n-awe with a grin. I didn’t think it was going to have the effect it did, but I do think I spoke true for the rest of the audience in saying so. I wish it were possible to see that show again. Maybe it will come out on DVD or something. It was the best concert I have been too. I did not hear of Jessica Lea Mayfield before. I checked her out on the internet before the show and she sounded quite promising. I was taken aback even more when I heard her live. It was thrilling to meet her in the theater foyer where she was greeting fans. Ray and Jessica were great together. It was a show to remember. I can only wait to attend another.
Thanks for weighing in Michael. I think you were spot on when spoke for the crowd. It was a great show indeed. I hope he comes back around soon too, although I don’t think he tours all that much. He played Madison last October but… Fingers crossed for a quick return!
Sure thing! I did like your article, and thanks for calling me a gentlemen. Fingers Crossed!!!