Ray Lamontagne - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Thu 3 Mar 2011 (4 stars)

Ray Lamontagne - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, thu 3 Mar 2011

Dark, meaningful and uplifting music from self-confessed troubled soul

The state of Maine’s self-confessed troubled soul returned to Glasgow, accompanied onstage with four-piece backing band The Pariah Dogs. Perhaps most recognised for his 2004’s album Trouble, LaMontagne combines soulful songs laden with melancholy with tracks belonging to a rock n’ roll era gone by.

The evening begins with Alabama duo, The Secret Sisters. Throughout their short set the girls take turns on the guitar while sharing lead and harmony vocal parts. The vocal melodies though, as delicate and pretty as they are, can not compensate for a lack of activity elsewhere which is something that becomes especially apparent when they are assisted onstage by Pariah Dogs' pedal steel player, Eric Heywood. The short inclusion of Heywood on stand-out track, ‘Tennessee Me’, goes a long way to bolstering the performance – as seen again later when the girls are invited to perform with the full band towards the end of the night. The Secret Sisters’ set, comprising mainly of cover material, was a slow-burner. Waltzing through Hank Williams classics and old Gospel numbers, the duo acted as a suitable precursor for what was to come, without truly standing out as a class act of their own.

LaMontagne is as captivating as could be hoped for. The meek and mild American, near Amish in appearance, opts to bypass audience interaction and instead runs smoothly through a varied selection of his extensive back-catalogue, both old and new. With vocal lines such as ‘You can bring me flowers when I'm dead and gone’, the atmosphere occasionally becomes morbid as LaMontagne refers to poignant moments in his life. With the help of his backing band, it’s never long though before he is able to raise the mood back up.

After a mid-set request from a member of the audience for hit-track 'Trouble', LaMontagne retorted with a slight hint of irritation, mentioning that he had written and released over thirty tracks since then. It was perhaps something of a surprise in that case, when the encore began with that very track. Perhaps less than surprisingly however, it received the loudest applause of the night.

Not to be confused with Dolly Parton's 1974 track, Ray LaMontagne brought the night to an end with ‘Jolene’. The song encapsulates the evening – showcasing his vocals, strongly established as his greatest asset, while his music is dark and meaningful, but truly uplifting all the same.

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