I was lucky enough to see Ray LaMontagne perform twice yesterday, in studio and in concert. Most that follow him even remotely close will easily find that his stage persona or demeanor is not typical of an entertainer. He often comes across as shy, brief, cold and unfriendly to crowds. The first time I saw Ray perform in Denver a few years ago, he asked a crowd member to quiet down as a person cheered his name during the silence between songs. Many are put off by his coy attitude, but those that dig into his rocky past and atypical childhood often find solid reason for his unique banter or lack thereof.
I'm no biogrpaher but I do know a clouded outline of some of Ray's not-so-glamorous childhood lowlights, which is why I am one of the fans that cares less about the stillness left in a room after an uncomfortable interview with him. You can find more information on Ray Charles LaMontagne if you dig on this blog or head to one of many attempts on the web that outline "his story."
During the one-minute elevator ride I took with LaMontagne and his band, I saw a completely different side of him than I had witnessed on stage over the past years. He was laughing, joking, and hell, nearly gregarious. A complete 180 from the quiet, reserved man that emerged only minutes later when being interviewed in the studio or congratulated by his manager. During an interview on eTown last summer, the host and crowd were able to catch Ray in the light I saw him yesterday, as he quickly responded to a question not immediately knowing his answer was a complete sexual innuendo. Ray, the host, and crowd were all on the same page, if only for a few minutes.
Watching Ray's show last night at Macky Auditorium in Boulder gave me the chills numerous times. I was on the first row in the balcony with all the speakers aimed directly at my face. My friend and I could even notice the difference in volume, pitch and bass when we leaned over the balcony 6 inches as compared to leaning back in our seats. Ray LaMontagne was armed with full band, which included Jennifer Condos and the legendary Ethan Johns. His smoky voice bellowed emotional stories in the aged theater while Johns provided the catchy backing rhythms and much of the new-style arrangements. His recently released album covers a new spectrum of Ray with the gorgeously down-tempo ballad of "Winter Birds" in contrast to my favorite, the Americana, bar-stomping, gospel chant of "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)". It sounds like this
Ray LaMontagne - Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)
and felt something like this last night: