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Last Night: Ray LaMontagne at The Fillmore Gleason

Ray LaMontagne
April 30, 2009
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Better than: Hearing a gruff James Taylor front The Band in the early '70s -- had you never seen either James Taylor or The Band

John Hood

I'm gonna get a lot of flack for this, but here goes:

Last night Ray LaMontagne played a pitch-perfect, utterly heartfelt set of his wondrously touching music -- and I was bored outta my mind.

Okay, so I wasn't exactly bored. But I sure could've used some excitement. Oh, don't get me wrong. LaMontagne, and, eventually, his band, were spot-on in every aspect. And that was precisely the problem. They were too spot-on. So there were none of the happy accidents that can so vividly enliven a live show.

Nor was there any of the audience interaction common to a concert, even something as simple as eye contact. Yes, Ray said "Hello" and introduced his band. And yes, after some dolt continued screaming out song titles, LaMontagne suggested the man might want to go home and listen to the music alone. But -- up until I left anyway -- that was it. I mean, LaMontagne didn't even look at the crowd throughout his set, preferring instead to set his gaze off into some kinda space off toward stage right.

But I know. It's totally my fault. LaMontagne is not the kinda cat you go see for any kinda pyrotechnics; you go to hear him sing for the touch and the feel of the emotions he wrings out of life. And that's another problem. People seem to have this intensely personal relationship with his songs, so much so that it feels as if they're there merely to hear the soundtrack of their lives played over again. It's too cuddly. And way too precious.

And I'm just as guilty. See, when I first heard "Trouble" it was over a 3"x5" radio in a 9'x 11' Pennsylvania cage. Yes, that's right. I was locked up, outside of Philadelphia in fact. And the dynamite WXPN had LaMontagne in continuous rotation. And from my cell I got to hear sung all of the hope and the hurt and the love and the beauty I was missing out in the free world. So you might say Ray struck a chord -- a chord made all the more poignant given my predicament.

And you know what? I don't want to re-hear a song that reminds me of the girl whose hand I didn't get to hold. And I sure as hell don't wanna sit among those who do, no matter what persuasion their loneliness.

Again though, that's just me. If the sighs and the squeals were any indication whatsoever, I was the only one in the room who felt that way. Because last night Ray LaMontagne slayed a whole lotta folk. He just didn't slay me.
Personal Bias: Like I said, LaMontagne moved me when I was in a place where all movement was severely restricted, and I'll never forget him for it.

Random Detail: With his revolutionary cap, LaMontagne looked eerily like Poplife's Aramis Lorie.

By the Way: I might also have been under-whelmed because I spent nearly the whole show thinking of the great, good girl who was supposed to be by my side for the show, but couldn't because of a family tragedy. Had she been there, I most likely would've felt and seen and heard things very differently.

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John Hood

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