Prepared with a cold local Chicago Goose Island Beer and a greasy slice of deep dish pizza, I was ready to explore my inner feelings with Ray Lamontagne at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois on August 6th, 2016.
Having only heard a handful of songs before the show, I can say that I'm a Mr. Lamontagne newbie. Maybe you are too. But like me, maybe you remember this commercial from back in the day, where, "Trouble," by Mr. Lamontagne was featured.
After some back and forth chatter about how beautiful the venue was with the elderly woman sitting next to me, the opener came on.
Mr. Lamontagne came out, armed with only his guitar to perform an acoustic set to open up the show. I chuckled, not in rudeness, but in complete awe as I had never seen an artist open up for themselves before. But if anyone could do it, Mr. Lamontagne could do it to a crowd of over 20,000 eager fans that were awaiting him.
Three out of the four songs performed were off of his Gold Certified debut album, Trouble (2004). Even with the album being 12 years old, the lyrics still rang true as you could feel the pain behind the words that were being sung out into the night sky. I even noticed a few people with tears in their eyes while they sang along with Mr. Lamontagne as the Chicago Skyline glittered on in the distance. It was truly a beautiful sight.
"Held you in my arms one time / Lost you just the same / Jolene / I ain't about to go straight / It's too late / I found myself face down in the ditch / Booze on my hair / Blood on my lips / A picture of you, holding a picture of me / in the pocket of my blue jeans / Still don't know what love means - "Jolene," - Song 2.
After performing the opening acoustic set that made me and others want to find the nearest bottle of gin to drink our sorrows away, Mr. Lamontagne was joined on stage by members of My Morning Jacket, who also helped record his recently released album, Ouroboros (2016).
Heavy guitar instrumentals accompanied by piano and a softer voiced Lamontagne took up the better part of the rest of the show. The heart-broken, raspy voiced man we heard in the beginning was no longer on stage. Eight straight songs off of Supernova (2014) followed Ouroboros, to the dismay of some in the audience who wanted to hear some of his older music. This led into the encore which finished with one last song off of Trouble.
While the latter sets were a stark contrast to the stripped down feel of the opening songs, that is what made this concert so interesting. This isn't a grocery store and music isn't a "customer is always right" business, it's an art. I'd hate to see Mr.Lamontagne in an endless rut the likes of a Greenday or Offspring. What he did in 2004 can only be charming so many times before it's just formulaic. Are you still the same person you were in 2004? Are you still consuming the same media you were in 2004? Or have you grown and expanded your horizons? Have you discovered new songs, artists, television shows, movies, etc.? Mr. LaMontagne isn't the same person he was in 2004 either. He's developed as an artist, and he's discovered another side of his musical repertoire that he's exploring. If you don't get sucked into your own prejudices, you can hear the same old Ray LaMontagne with all of his talents in his new music.
If anything, it might be better, so go ahead and give it a shot.
3. Like Rock & Roll and Radio
(Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs cover)
"Ouroboros"- Full Band w/ members of My Morning Jacket