Former Shoe-Factory Worker Plays The 9:30 Club

Even though I didn’t get to go the Ray LaMontagne show at the 9:30 club last month, I can tell you it was amazing.

Thanks to NPR’s “Live Concert Series,” which tapes and posts concerts free of charge, I was able to listen to the sold-out concert.

LaMontagne, whose 2004 debut album “Trouble” garnered global critical praise and an “International Breakthrough Act” Brit Award nomination, typically tours on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

On a rare, short stateside tour to promote his sophomore effort, “Till the Sun Turns Black," Ray brings his haunting, looming voice to an American audience.

Ray is an intimate performer. He started his set with four new tracks from his latest release, which are noticeably a darker, edgier tone than those on his first album. The first tune, “Empty,” showcased his angrier, drained, and emotionally-frustrated voice, as did the second song, “Be Here Now.” The third song from the set, “Barfly,” is flirty, seductive, impulsive. Technical problems didn’t stop the band from performing the brilliantly instrumental “Gone Away from Me,” which sounds like a 17th century classical composition, the anger is suppressed: replaced with soft, tender, lyrics of longing. He finishes his set with the title track, “Till the Sun Turns Black,” a somber, almost quiet song with long, wailing guitar solos. Ray, the performer, is letting us in, and finishes the set.

He’s fooled us, though. He comes back with a cover of the BeeGee’s “To Love Somebody,” and goes on to play three more songs -- including “Jolene,” a favorite from his first album. He’s fooled us in the way that he returns. After hearing the sad, mellow songs, Ray’s rendition of “To Love Somebody” is upbeat and fun in a “Love Can Conquer All” way.

But that’s just the songwriter and performer he is: full of passion. I can’t imagine how many times he’s performed the powerful “Shelter,” or “Trouble,” the title track for his first album, and his performances remain so solid.

His success is something to admire, Ray entered the commercial music scene only three years ago, and has sold over half a million units, not too shabby from a former shoe-factory worker from Maine.

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