After traveling for about 4 hours and a million pot holes later, I will still confirm LaMontagne puts on a show that is not to be missed. Detroit's Magic Stick was flooded with college types, hipster adults and teens alike. Opener Jonathan Rice, who I had caught opening for Starsailor last year was good, witty, but less impressive than his Guvernment spot in Toronto. Magic Stick is an intimate, yet rather spacious venue, similar to the cabaret seating on the sidelines of Toronto's Mod Club, but of course, still full of smoke. As the orange candles glazed our eyes, out came a cellist followed by Ray.
The simplistic, unassuming nature of the gig was an unexpected twist for the high voltage symphony of sound we were all about to witness. I had looped and loved Ray's CD "Trouble" on the way to D-town and each time I listened I was always amazed at how he reminded me of Van Morrison's raspy greatness and the unique soul of a true R&B sensation wrapped up into a humble, very soft spoken musical genius. Ray's not a crowd pleaser (although he does please them); he's a songwriter and singer first and foremost. As he begins each song, he mats his hair with one hand and speaks softly into the mic giving us all a preamble about the lyrics. His personality alters when he sings, what comes out of him is completely different than his offstage presence, he transforms and mesmerizes the audience with a set of powerful pipes.
It being Valentine's Day weekend, there were several couples in the audience, but I was shocked to see that the guys were mouthing the lyrics and dancing up a storm even more so than the girls! Ray truly breaks all barriers and releases a person's soul. Favourites of the evening were "Hannah", "How Come", and some people even shouted out for an encore of "Shelter" mid-set. He played some songs that weren't on his album, one of which I can remember "Heaven is a Honky Tonk". When Ray's vocals convulse and ripen through his songs, the audience gets shivers and that's worth more than the bank. Leaving the venue satisfied to the core, Ray is continuing to play in the states, but will soon be off to Europe to show the Brits, Scots, and Irish how to get into "Trouble".
I sincerely suggest you check him out; it's a show (like seeing Marvin Gaye perform for the first time) that makes you feel like you're witnessing history in the making.
For more tour info: www.raylamontage.com
Writer: Lindsay Whitfield