A pleasant but unseasonably cool and overcast evening greeted the fans at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, Georgia on Friday night as they prepared for an evening of folk rock courtesy of Ray LaMontagne, Jenny Lewis and Belle Brigade.
Ray LaMontagne hasn’t accomplished the degree of commercial success that many of his contemporaries have but there were few empty seats and the crowd was very vocal in its appreciation of his music. Overall though it was a mellow evening and there were some in the crowd happy enough to irritatingly chat amongst themselves while the band played on. There were times when it felt like we were sitting in Starbucks with the music taking a backseat, completely a function of the crowd rather than the music itself.
While Ray LaMontagne has been classified as folk rock the breadth of his musical taste came through loud and clear and time and again during the show as his set encompassed a variety of music styles. Some songs sounded like they came directly from the psychedelic 60's, “Lavender” and “Smashing” both from that time capsule and perfectly complemented by the kaleidoscopic look of the stage-sized video screen backdrop. Others, like “Old Before Your Time” or “Ojai” channeled the Eagles country rock sound of the 1970's, while still others fit more solidly into the genre that LaMontagne has occupied since breaking out in 2004.
Regardless of the musical genre he followed on Friday night the concert moved fluidly along with LaMontagne taking little or no break between songs. In fact it was pretty deep into the set before LaMontagne stopped to recount a little of his career and his appreciation of his fans for all they have done for him over the last ten or more years.
For most of the set LaMontagne was backed by five musicians including bassist Zachariah Hickman and the brother sister tandem from Belle Brigade, Barbara and Ethan Gruska, but the show’s highlight was LaMontagne and Hickman playing on stage alone for a three song acoustic set that included “Jolene”, “Trouble”, and the magnificent “Like Rock and Roll & Radio” where his harmonica and voice combined to create an atmosphere much more intimate than you’d have thought possible in a venue the size of Verizon.
LaMontagne focused his attention for much of the evening on his latest album, “Supernova” where the aforementioned title track, along with “Ojai” were two of the highlights. “Airwaves” was another and it was easy to understand with that song particularly where comparisons between he and Van Morrison come from.
What was particularly pleasing about the show on Friday night was that Jenny Lewis and Belle Brigade added significantly to the overall soft rock, easy feel of the evening’s music.
Jenny Lewis, particularly, with a set that drew heavily from her experiences with her first solo album “Acid Tongue” and the soon to be released “The Voyager” was particularly refreshing. She has a great voice and the interesting interplay between the pop, indie rock feel and some of her darker lyrics was a fascinating, ironic combination. She started strong with her latest release “Just One Of the Guys” but the highlights also included “Rise Up With Fists!”, “Moneymaker”, and “Acid Tongue”.
Overall, the evening was very satisfying but given the type of music would probably have been better suited to a more intimate venue.
Ray LaMontagne set list
Gossip in the Grain
She's the One
For the Summer
Pick Up a Gun
Beg Steal or Borrow
Like Rock & Roll and Radio
God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise
Old Before Your Time
Hey Me, Hey Mama