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Ray LaMontagne demands attention

Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, August 17, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Ray LaMontagne should have had a lot to celebrate, but you certainly could not tell from his demeanor on this tour with British singer David Gray.

Interestingly enough, the first of two shows before full houses also marked the same day that both artists released new discs. LaMontagne is going in a different direction with "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise," which is more country-based than other efforts.

LaMontagne was certainly an understated figure on stage beyond not smiling or cracking a single funny line. While Gray, for example (and just about every other lead singer) mans the front of the stage, LaMontagne was more than content to be back always slightly towards the right almost blending into the background.

He cuts a good figure sartorially though with a brown hat and vest, white shirt and full beard. (Actually for that matter, this was an evening of fine dressed singers. Gray was in a suit and shirt with his band dressed up as well).

Maybe he'd prefer to be in the background, but his music just won't let him. The New Hampshire native, who has lived throughout New England and indicated this was hometown gig for him, started with two new songs from "God Willin...", For the Summer and the downer New York City's Killing Me, with the latter particularly compelling. That was not a surprise given that the opening lines are "There's just somethin' about this hotel/Got me wishin' I was dead/Got to get out of New York City/Somewhere I can clear my head." What may have seemed like a negative (and is) ends up with a sense of optimism about finding oneself in a better place, something LaMontagne knows a thing or two about from his difficult past.

LaMontagne did not save his best known song (thanks to TV commercials), Trouble, for the end. In fact, he trotted out as his third song treating the gem like his other song babies - with a lot of care and emotion.

LaMontagne mixed it up for 70 minutes between his bluesy vocals and a more country bent. His backing band, the Pariah Dogs, certainly were top notch, although that would be expected when you have folks like Eric Heywood on pedal steel and guitar, Jay Bellerose on drums, Jennifer Condos on bass and Greg Leisz on pedal.

Serious though he was, LaMontagne demanded and deserved attention.