Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hances are strong that Ray LaMontagne was not planning to wait two and a half years since the release of his latest CD, "Monovision," to bring his music to the masses. Despite the unintended delay, LaMontagne and his music have aged well.
It's a good thing LaMontagne believed so strongly in the album - as he should have – considering that he played nine songs from it, leaving out only "Weeping Willow" from his 17-song set.
In addition to his distinctive vocal delivery, what sets LaMontagne apart is the quality of his songwriting and storytelling. He easily detailed stories and emotions with his lyrics. On at least one song, he recalled his upbringing as a youth in Nebraska with his mother after his parents split.
No wonder the floor of the flexible-seating venue contained seats instead of being standing only.
At 49, LaMontagne and his trademark sandpaper voice have weathered nicely over time. That along makes you want to pay attention. LaMontagne may not be tour de force in concert – he pretty much stays moored to his microphone. And while not the most outgoing personality, he told a few good yarns that told his fans a bit more about him.
There were a lot of very dark, mood-inducing colors when it came to lighting up the stage. Maybe LaMontagne decided to do so to match some of the lyrics.
LaMontagne sprinkled in a few hits – "Beg, Steal or Borrow," "You Are the Best Thing" and "Trouble" (that closed the regular set), but LaMontagne, of course, wasn't all about the hits. That's not his style.
And the songs in between were not filler space either. He went bluesy on "Roll Me Mama, Roll Me" and was upbeat on "Rocky Mountain' Healin'" (with the lines: "A man can get lost/In what might've been/Up here in the mountains/Can be born again), "Summer Clouds" and the lyrically heavy "I Was Born to Love You."
As for the future, LaMontagne wasn't taking any best on his closing "Highway to the Sun": "I don't know where I'm going/I've got miles and miles yet to run/Wontcha follow me on the highway to the sun."
The brightness came through. Glad to be along for the ride – long wait and all.
Lily Meola opened with a generally satisfying set. Put another away, it was far superior to what one hears from her recorded music, which is on the poppy, not necessarily engaging side.
That was not Meola's style in concert. The Hawaiian came off more as a singer/songwriter type and a better match for LaMontagne than one would have initially thought. Meola, who placed third on season 17 of America's Got Talent, was a superb singer with a very full voice that easily filled the new concert hall despite only having two backing musicians on keyboards and guitar.
Meola may have leaned a bit too easily into covers by playing a snippet of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and later Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." Not that she didn't sing them well, but one more reading of the songs will convince no one of her real talents. Which she does have.