LIVE: Ray LaMontagne @ the Palace Theatre, 11/9/14

November 18th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Greg Haymes

Ray LaMontagne’s sweet honey/whiskey voice is still intact, and at the Palace Theatre when he cut it loose during the acoustic “Trouble” and the nostalgic encore “Drive-In Movies” or brought it down to a hoarse, hushed whisper with “Sarah” or the Van Morrison-like show-closing soul ballad “You Are the Best Thing,” it was simply glorious.

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But like his new album Supernova (produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), his Palace concert focused primarily on gauzy pop psychedelia slathered with reverb, which didn’t necessarily make the best use of that marvelous voice. Backed by a hi-tech version of the old constantly swirling Fillmore East light shows, LaMontagne and his versatile four-piece band launched into the show with the back-to-back psychedelic slabs of the dreamy “Lavender” and slightly funkified “She’s the One,” before slipping into “For the Summer” and “Pick Up a Gun,” both revealing the influence of Buffalo Springfield-era Neil Young and Stephen Stills.

Led by dapper, handlebar-mustachioed bassist/musical director Zachariah Hickman (on loan from Josh Ritter’s usual touring ensemble), the band featured the brother-and-sister team of Barbara and Ethan Gruska (who also led the opening act, the Belle Brigade) and guitarist-keyboardist Dave Depper. They kept things churning along nicely, often sliding from one song to another, likely at the behest of the notoriously taciturn LaMontage, who offered only a few terse thank-yous, a heckler put-down (“To the guy who keeps yelling, ‘Play acoustic’ – go fuck yourself”) and band member introductions. At the end of the night, however, he did graciously thank the crowd for making “my first show in Albany so sweet.” Perhaps the psychedelics have eaten away the part of his memory bank that included his April, 2009 concert at The Egg.

A mid-show acoustic set accompanied only by Hickman (who set down his electric bass in favor of the warm, wooden tone of his acoustic stand-up), was one of the highlights of the evening, especially the crowd favorite “Trouble,” LaMontagne’s big breakthrough song. “Smashing” and his tribute to White Stripes drummer “Meg White” bookended the acoustic set, both displaying a decidedly Beatlesque brand of psychedelia. Infused with licks from the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” “Meg White” was particularly collage-like, fusing together a Clash-like martial rhythm beneath the sonic swirl of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with lush Beach Boys harmonies riding atop it all.

Along the way, LaMontagne also dropped in the stutter funk of “Repo Man,” the rag-tag rural romp “Hey Me, Hey Moma” and the epic swell of “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise,” but it was the big, built-for-sing-along pop hits “Supernova” and “Drive-In Movies” that seemed to reap the biggest response from the crowd.

Led By drummer Barbara Gruska and her brother guitarist Ethan Gruska, the four-piece Belle Brigade opened the show with a solid 40-minute set, showcasing sweet, sweet sibling harmonies and such unapologetically hook-filled pop-rockers as “Rusted Wheel,” “How I See It” and the twang-laced “Ticking.”

SECOND OPINIONS:
Lauren Byrnes’ review at Upstate live

RAY LaMONTAGNE SET LIST
Lavender
She’s the One
For the Summer
Pick Up a Gun
Supernova
New York City’s Killing Me
Airwaves
Repo Man
Smashing
Burn (acoustic with just Zachariah Hickman)
Sarah (acoustic with just Zachariah Hickman)
Trouble (acoustic with just Zachariah Hickman)
Jolene (acoustic with just Zachariah Hickman)
Meg White
Julia
God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise
ENCORES
Hey Me, Hey Mama
Drive-In Movies
You Are the Best Thing

THE BELLE BRIGADE SET LIST
Ashes
Where Not to Look for Freedom
Losers
Likely to Use Something
How I See It
My Goodness
Rusted Wheel
Ticking
When Everything Was the Way It Was