What we learned watching Ray LaMontagne live

It's been a long time, but I'm feeling younger all the time.

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Ray LaMontagne has returned to the UK this month for the first time in nearly 10 years with a brand new acoustic tour. The tour will culminate with two shows at London’s Eventim Apollo in time for the release of his new album Part of The Light on 18 May.

We were there at his first UK stop in Sheffield on Friday. Here’s what we learned during the show.

Ray LaMontagne - Such A Simple Thing (Official Audio)

Less is more

Accompanied solely by his bassist, John Stirratt from Wilko, a harmonica and their guitars, the two stood humbly in the middle of a grand archway, backed by a soothing cloud backdrop which turns a stronger shade of purple in time for the lyrics of Lavender – “We lie, under a lavender sky|”. With so little distraction, the breathy vocals of Ray LaMontagne reach out unfiltered to every inch of the room, giving the 2700 capacity venue the intimacy of a space a quarter of the size.

The rumours are not true, Ray can banter

Ray LaMontagne is one of the most mysterious singer songwriters of recent times, especially on stage. Usually known for little talking, he introduced a number of songs, shared some stories, and to the audiences delight he joined in on a number of heckles. However, when asked to remove his hat, the comfort blanket was revealed. He shook his head, placed his hand on top of his hat and jokingly exclaimed that he’d have to charge three times as much for that to happen.

Support is key

One story he shared was about the support from John Stirratt and other musician friends, who persuaded Ray LaMontagne to tour again and share his talent with his fans and the world. The bond between them on stage was strong, their vocal harmonies and melodies tight, and the comfort resonated around the room as mellow smiles and embraces appeared constantly within the crowd.

Trouble is a classic, but he’s no one hit wonder

The set dipped into many of his albums; the harmonica driven Like Rock and Roll Radio from God Will & The Creek Don’t Rise, the progressive sound of In My Own Way from Ouroboros, and the upbeat Airwaves from Supernova, before ending the set with an extended version of Trouble as well as stripped back tracks from the namesake album including a stunning version of Jolene.

There were whoops and whistles from the crowd throughout the 90 minutes set, including on brand new track Such a Simple Thing, showing his fans devotion to his music rights across the decade.

Quiet confidence

The show was quietly confident. The performances sharp but casual, the arrangements bold but stripped back, the crowd excited but assured, and Ray LaMontagne himself striking, yet appreciative as ever.

Towards the end of his set he acknowledged the length of time since his last visit by saying: “It’s been a long time, but I’m feeling younger all the time”. It’s this dignity and grace which sets Ray LaMontagne apart from many others, and we hope he won’t wait quite as long until his next UK visit.

Ray LaMontagne - Airwaves (Audio)

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