RAY LaMontagne comes over as a gentle, even fragile soul but there is something admirably bloody-minded about the uncompromising way he conducts his live affairs. His latest tour, in support of ravishing new album Part of the Light, could hardly be more simple in set-up – LaMontagne on acoustic guitar, all the better to serenade the gathering, with subtle embellishment from Wilco’s John Stirratt on electric bass and clear, honeyed harmonies.
Ray LaMontagne, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow ****
Were it not for the non-budget-busting proscenium arch scenery and calming clouds on the backdrop, this introverted show could easily have found a more natural home in the backroom of a pub. Of the two musicians, Stirratt appeared to be the more outgoing. Or was at least prepared to make eye contact with the rapt audience. Lamontagne stretched to the occasional song introduction or muttered thanks.
But his music did all the talking required. LaMontagne is an old school troubadour, understated to a fault and entirely out of step with the vogue for manicured angst. His soft, breathy tone was perfect for the gorgeous ache of his material, and his lithe strumming harked back over a generation to the ace songwriters circle who populated LA’s Laurel Canyon in the early 1970s. There was even a touch of Love’s sunshine psychedelia on Lavender and a Van Morrisonesque clipped, rhythmic soul to the delivery of Airwaves, caressed by the sweetest and subtlest of harmonies.
For all his easy listening appeal, LaMontagne was utterly hardcore in his unremitting reticence, his face in shadow under his hat throughout his zen performance. But though he does not encourage interaction – either you were on board or you were not – the warmth of his music invites engagement and intimacy.
The tender mercy of You Should Belong To Me is as good an example as any of a song to lean in to, inspiring an enraptured hush, but his well-behaved listeners in Glasgow could not be contained for too long and there were whoops of approval for Burn and other material from his debut album Trouble, including the soft heartbreak of All The Wild Horses and the more rousing acoustic blues of the title track itself, LaMontagne’s introduction to the world 14 years ago and by far the most extrovert performance of the night from this modest man.