Ray LaMontagne enthralls at the Tampa Theatre
A Ray LaMontagne concert is a bit like a Ray song: Slow, steady build, but from the first note to the last goodbye, you're hooked.
The Ray LaMontagne show at the Tampa Theatre on Wednesday night was one of the most mellow concerts I've ever seen. No standing, moshing or even use of cell phones as faux cigarette lighters during the slow tunes. Unfortunately, there is one drawback to an all-seated show: The people who do get up are serious distractions.
He started the show solo, with a harmonica and wearing a cap pulled low over his eyes. All the Wild Horses was not the first song that comes to mind when I think of Ray, but it was an amazingly sweet start. One friend who went said it reminded her of how much she loved him, and why she loved him. His velvet voice drew you in and you couldn't wait for more.
The fans couldn't wait for their favorites. Before starting his second song, He said, "Trouble," which got the crowd in a frenzy. But Ray is a bit of a tease. He was only joking. "A concert's like making love; you can't just jump into Trouble." And he didn't. He saved his best, most popular song for the final tune of the set, followed by the encore with You Are the Best Thing and Three More Days. Phew! I've always hated the acts who saved their best songs for the encore. It's cheap.
Throughout the entire concert, Ray barely moved from his spot at the microphone, except to occasionally back up a bit during vocal breaks. Not ideal if someone's stuck behind a guy sitting high in his seat. But people who come out to see him know he's not some rock star. There won't be pyrotechnics, there won't be running all over the stage. Ray is a stand-behind-the-mike kind of guy. We were all there to listen. And we were enthralled.
But the crowd knows what they like of their guy. Besides Trouble, other crowd favorites included Burn and Jolene. But I can honestly say, they did not like Ray a little bit country. Hey Me, Hey Mama was met with lots of talking, milling about and other rude behavior. I admit, it's not my favorite either, but come on, people, you can carry on conversations at home.
LaMontagne, however, was not much of a talker. He's an artist. He will belt out those songs and stomp that right foot like there's no tomorrow. But his speaking voice is quiet and a bit unsure. He ended his performance simply, with "Thank you. See you later," and a wave.
Thank you, Ray. You can come back and sing to me, er, I mean Tampa, anytime.
-- Lisa Haiss, tbt*
[The Tampa Theatre doesn't allow photography, and it had an anti-camera crew on patrol. So since I was incognito in the cheap seats, no photo from the show. The above photo is from Ray's MySpace.]