Ray LaMontagne, The Belle Brigade Jones Hall August 3, 2014
Many singer-songwriters talk throughout their shows, telling stories about how particular tunes were developed or tales of adventures with strange characters, but Ray LaMontagne is a different breed. To characterize him as being a man of few words simply does not fit.
Sunday night, performing at a Jones Hall packed with beautiful people, the singer-songwriter appeared very shy and chose not to speak between songs. Instead he let the depth of his lyrics and heartfelt guitar playing express his sentiments.
LaMontagne's gravelly, wispy voice blended perfectly with the playing of his bandmates, two of whom pulled double duty as opening performers the Belle Brigade. The sibling duo returned to play the drums and rhythm guitar/keyboards in LaMontagne's five-piece band. Their colleague Zachariah Hickman drew some eyes as he plucked, slapped and spun his standup bass with the flair of an experienced showman.
Throughout the set, the band members switched guitars between songs, allowing ample time for fans to scream, holler and clap. Early on the audience was seemingly entranced by the music, but gradually the concert became more upbeat with the title track of LaMontagne's most recent album, Supernova, and hit a crescendo with crowd favorite "Repo Man."
Throughout the show, LaMontagne's face remained twisted and distorted, delivering the lyrics as if from his soul. He left everything on the stage, even gasping that he needed a moment to catch his breath after hammering out "Repo Man."
"Thank you. I'm working up a sweat for you," he said. "That's what I do every single fucking night, work for you."
These were basically his only spoken words other than expressing his appreciation towards the audience. Mostly made up of young and middle-aged professionals, Sunday's crowd was very attentive and respectful, not always something that occurs with Houston concertgoers. Talking was at a minimum, and the illuminating lights of cell phones in the cavernous hall were few and far between.
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It made me wonder if Houstonians have finally learned concert etiquette, or if this group was simply aware of LaMontagne's history of lashing out at people yapping at his shows. And did I mention that the audience was a very attractive group?
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The crowd broke into a mid-song cheer when the band slipped into the familiar bass groove of "Seven Nation Army" in the middle of "Meg White." It's definitely a fun song, if a bit on the creepy side. Towards the end of the main set, the concert began to have a psychedelic feel as the music became more dreamlike and bright yellow and orange images floated across the video screen, not unlike the Beatles' Yellow Submarine.
As hard as he had worked earlier, LaMontagne made the crowd work for their encore. Several minutes of anticipation passed as the crowd clapped and cheered for the man to return to the stage. After three more songs concluding with "Drive In Movies," a few fans believed there would be a second encore because two of his biggest songs had not been played.
However, it was not to be. The house lights quickly illuminated the venue, leaving the crowd with the sentiment that they had missed out on seeing LaMontagne perform "You Are the Best Thing" and Let It Be Me."
So, What About the Openers? The Belle Brigade's sound was very similar to the Indigo Girls. The younger sibling, Ethan Gruska, was frothing at the mouth and launched spittle across the first two rows during particularly passionate moments of their set. Barbara Gruska sported a Cruella DeVille-like afro that was entertaining in and of itself as it bobbed along a split-second after the beat.
Random Notebook Dump: Houstonians drink and we drink a lot. One thing that I do not understand is the constant lack of bartenders staffing Jones Hall. I have never attended an event at this venue, whether a concert, play or symphony performance, and witnessed a wait time of less than 30 minutes to get a drink.
Overheard in the Crowd: At the conclusion of "Trouble," a young lady ecstatically said, "He sings the shit out of that song!"
Lavender She's the One For the Summer Pick Up a Gun Supernova Airwaves Ojai Repo Man Smashing Burn Trouble Jolene Meg White Julia God Willing
Old Before Your Time Hey Me, Hey Mama Drive In Movies
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