10/19/2008 Ray LaMontagne @ The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn.

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“This is something I used to dream about,” Ray LaMontagne coarsely whispered nearing the end of his two hour set at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium last Sunday. The honesty with which he spoke is the very same that so many have come to admire in his lyrics. And what a dream of a night it was…

“This is something I used to dream about,” Ray LaMontagne coarsely whispered nearing the end of his two hour set at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium last Sunday. The honesty with which he spoke is the very same that so many have come to admire in his lyrics. And what a dream of a night it was…

Leona Naess opened for LaMontagne and was just as charming and free as her songs, telling the audience at one point if they clapped along during “Un-Named” (off her latest album Thirteens), they would be “rewarded in fun.” She possessed the kind of genuine and refreshing kindness you’d expect from your elementary school babysitter, as well as the kind of thought-provoking lyrical content you’d expect from a seasoned songwriter. Her stage presence perfectly mirrored the hopeful and unashamedly pureness of heart found in her lyrics. With a contagious optimism, she instantly won the audience over, and after her 30-minute set featuring “Learning As We Go” and “Leave Your Boyfriends Behind,” left everyone smiling as she pranced off the stage with the same sort of whimsical air she’d entered with.

Then on came Ray who started his set off right with “You Are the Best Thing,” off his latest album Gossip in the Grain. It was followed by an exceptionally tender rendition of “Hold You In My Arms” from Trouble. Nearly every couple in the audience, almost on cue, wrapped their arms around one another, in a semi-rehearsed affection similar to that of a Lifetime movie. If somehow you’d forgotten you’d come stag that night, boy, you certainly knew it by the end.

Seemingly humbled to be headlining at the Ryman, LaMontagne played with the sort of humility only exemplified by someone whose dream has just materialized. Famous for his introversion, LaMontagne said very little between songs and remained subdued through the seemingly relentless catcalls and requests that were incessantly hollered his way. And save for a few moments in which he genuinely thanked the audience, he focused on what he was there to do: showcase his lyrics. And to those who genuinely appreciated them, his priorities were definitely in order.

His placement on stage was a testament of his meek demeanor–off to one side, it was a polite refusal of his limelight–though he later commented it was about sound quality and instrument arrangement.

Featured in three songs on Gossip, Naess joined LaMontagne on stage for a poignant rendition of “I Still Care For You”; their perfectly paired timbres created haunting harmonies that, quite frankly, left me with chills. The pairing of the two was a match made in folk heaven. She joined him again later for “A Falling Through.”

LaMontagne brought us back to his roots, growling his way through “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s A Shame).” The auditorium seemed to develop a pulse as the audience kept time stompin’ their feet and slappin’ the pew in front of them. LaMontagne’s blues left you feeling raw and dirty, the way good blues should. One of the most memorable moments of the night, was his stunning performance of “Burn,” again from Trouble. Just him and his Martin, he captivated the audience from a bare stage. Honest and wild, his gravel rasp carried through the historic space as so many legendary performers had before him.

No one had had enough after he finished his set with “Trouble”-a crowd favorite that instantly became a sing-a-long. No Sir-ee, as he left the stage, an eruption roared throughout the Ryman. Chaos ensued: Clapping, shouting, whistling, and the traditional Ryman call to worship-banging on the pews with fury. LaMontagne returned to play “Shelter” and “Three More Days.”

Again, he humbly thanked the audience, saying “It’s a lovely place…we’ve been looking forward to being here…thanks for being here tonight,” left the stage, and again the audience refused to leave, as if picketing at a Women’s Lib protest. And, man, did he deliver. It was like he knew the entire crowd had been waiting all night for it, so he finally gave it to us in all its glory… “Jolene.” And after a particularly heart-felt version of “All The Wild Horses,” a Dylan-esque harmonica around his neck, he reluctantly left the stage for the last time that night, having played a double encore for a standing ovation.






3 Comments

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  1. I was at this show as well.

    His performance that evening cannot be put into words. This review is the best I have seen thus far. in my opinion, his humility and graciousness were the most endearing part of his set. I have loved his music for years now, but I don’t know if his playlists have left my iTunes or iPod since the show.

    God created talent like Ray for people like me. I just cannot get enough.

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