Ray LaMontagne Was Toothless and Flat at Fair Park Music Hall

Categories: Last Night

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Quiet. It's about to get kind of, sort of Ppsychedelic.

Ray LaMontagne, Belle Brigade
Fair Park Music Hall, Dallas
Saturday, August 2

By the time that "She's the One," the second song from Ray LaMontagne's Saturday night show at Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas, was complete, the tone for the night had been firmly set. Unfortunately, it was a toothless one forged in a benign, methodical and wholly emotionless manner.

It's no secret that LaMontagne has the onstage personality of one of the drained bargain-bin wine bottles from the Hall's concession booth. And surely, few in the packed house were there for the bearded folk-rocker's witty banter. Not helping matters was the unique equation presented by the venue itself. On the surface, the classic, pristine-sounding and under-utilized venue seemed like a perfect fit as folk music usually lends itself to staying seated and respectfully clapping from time to time. But since LaMontagne understandably leaned rather heavily on his newer, pop-based material, the awkward scenario of sitting quietly while his skilled band did its best to inject a somewhat rocking energy into the fantastic room created a feeling of defeat before the night had barely progressed.

The first handful of songs the robotic LaMontagne performed, primarily from his most recent LP, the imminently enjoyable Dan Auerbach-produced Supernova, proved that songs with bright, poppy vibes on vinyl aren't necessarily going to burst with the same fervor in a live setting. From the onset, everything was just... fine. The band was fine, LaMontagne sounded fine and everyone seemed to have a fine time. A fine evening doesn't a killer show make, however.

The visual display projected high above the band on the venue's back wall came off as more of a series of rather dull screensavers than anything resembling the psychedelic feel that would accompany the sunny senses of the '60s-flavored folk-pop LaMontagne offered up.

Such a milquetoast overtone wasn't the result of a lack of effort, seemingly. Indeed, everything seemed to be clicking as much as it was intended to. LaMontagne's performance of "Supernova," showcased his full-bodied, distinctive rasp as his band went full-steam ahead in admirable fashion with swirling flourishes, while "Ojai" also punched things up with a colorful burst as LaMontagne sang about "hitching a ride on the PCH." Even "Repo Man," the grizzly, most exciting number from LaMontagne's stellar 2010 country-soul album God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, fell flat as it wafted from the stage toward the back of the main floor, as had the preceding numbers for the most part.

After an hour, LaMontagne's crew -- which played with the precision of Nashville's finest session players all night -- hopped off the stage for a break. But a bass player remained as he took hold of a majestic upright bass and nudged in close to the dour lead man. At that point, for three songs at least, the evening became an intimate and joyful one. While he still employed an up-tempo approach, LaMontagne led the crowd through a collective sing-along of "Burn," then the goosebump-inducing "Trouble," which rightfully remains his stunning signature number, and then the gripping "Jolene." Each of these set-saving tunes is from LaMontagne's breakthrough 2004 debut album Trouble. If only the whole night could've felt so warmly welcoming.

While this specific woodsy balladeer has yet to make an album that's anything short of fantastic, that every album, regardless of a given record's specific sonic style, will be held up to that decade-old gem is a fact of his artistic life.

After that refreshing, almost rejuvenating acoustic breakdown, LaMontagne and crew attempted a bit of levity and playfulness when they busted out the iconic riff from the White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" during "Meg White" from 2008's Gossip in the Grain. But again, as had been the case all evening long, the attempt wasn't enough to elicit more than a bit of polite clapping with a few half-hearted smirks mixed in.

Were we sitting in the wrong section? The sound seemed fine from where we sat quietly. Are we being unfair to hope for the same emotional wallop from the new material in a live setting that LaMontagne's older material provides? We don't think so.

With the exception of the resplendent, perfectly calculated campfire session halfway through the night, the concert's personality -- or lack thereof, to be more accurate -- mirrored that of its pseudo-psychedelic star who never seemed to care whether the audience felt the groove or not.


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6 comments
paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

You play with fire you get burned...you go to a douche bag hipster twat-fest and you are guaran-fucking-teed of having a douche bag hipster twat fest of a time.

teresaganim
teresaganim

Actually for all the people begging for old ray the reality is that people no longer go to concerts to hear music and now that Spotify and Pandora exist along with illegal downloads "fans" no longer know any artist new music they just pull a song here and there.  These so called fans  beg for the music that they liked when they first discovered the artist, when they play that music they still talk. The review is more of a reflection of Dallas and today's concertgoers.  These people were loud during the 3 song acoustic set.  As for folk festivals they are filled with elitist phonies who want the artist to live in a long cabin while they pull up in their BMWs and play on their smart phones. 

PithyAphorism
PithyAphorism

I agree with this review (though our post Supernova show was at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival).  Not only did the newer stuff sound benign at best, as mentioned in the article, in Telluride, he made fun of folk festivals, and had a nasty comment about playing to '...the living dead' at the end of the show before walking off without an encore.  I have been a fan for years, but that was why we didn't reprise our experience buying tickets to his show here in Dallas.  

bobloblaw1721
bobloblaw1721

This review pretty much nails it. The new stuff does not translate well in a live setting at all, while the 3-song interlude in the middle was just about perfect. That being said, there were a couple of songs off the new album that I found enjoyable and the backing band was pretty decent. 


Outside of the music not working, this was just an all-around bad experience. Maybe the worst crowd I've ever seen at a concert in Dallas (and that's saying something). It seemed like half of the crowd in the lower level was walking in and out as often as possible and the amount of people trying to talk over the music for the entirety of the show was astounding. Not sure why this concert drew such a terrible crowd, but it reeked of a bunch of rich suburbanites deciding that a night at a concert was the best way to catch up with friends.

bobloblaw1721
bobloblaw1721

@paulpsycho78 Yes - the epitome of hipster music is a 41-year old folk singer who has been recording/touring for 10+ years. That's exactly the type of musician that is associated with hipsters. 

teresaganim
teresaganim

@bobloblaw1721 @paulpsycho78 Yes and was homeless as a child living in the forest, train cars, or chicken shacks.  As he got older, he worked in a shoe factory and then working odd and end jobs, while supporting his wife and 2 children.  He wrote his songs that went on to become his 1st CD while living in a cabin in the woods with no running water.  Is that what you mean by hipster?  

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