Laughter, tears and storytelling were the highlights of Ray LaMontagne‘s sold-out performance at the iconic Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Saturday with singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell opening and joining the headliner for a stellar duet.
The MONOVISION Tour supported LaMontagne’s 2020 Monovision, his outstanding eighth album, with a number of songs from this newer record along with others spanning his 18 years as a recording artist.
Sierra Ferrell delivered a perfect blend of old-time Americana, bluegrass and folk with a wonderful set of originals mostly off her 2021 album Long Time Coming as well as some impressive covers. She played a lovely opening of her “In Dreams” on guitar, wearing a flower crown and a light green dress “ooh-ing” throughout the warm tune with her timeless voice. Her knack for storytelling was clear on “Give It Time” with a sweet and charming vocal, holding out the notes on the chorus, “give it tiiime”, impressing on guitar as well.
“So I like to take normal songs and put them in minor keys, not just ’cause I’m from West Virginia”, said Ferrell. She played a cover of Charley Pride’s “The Snakes Crawl at Night”, showcasing true artistry and mystery, hissing mid-song, coupled with ghoulish, slightly amusing “oohs”.
“If you’d like to be involved in this next song, it would make me really happy”, said Ferrell. Her “At The End of the Rainbow” was interactive with fans putting their hands up like a wave at a baseball game (while saying “woo!”), in the shape of a rainbow. The pretty and witty song about other girls was met with a beautiful final chord.
“You are all good rainbow makers, I never knew rainbows made that noise”, joked Ferrell. “Learn something new every day”. Old folk classic “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” was next, with standout fingerpicking on guitar and yet another timeless vocal. Clever little ditty “The Bells In Every Chapel” offered a perfect vocal, with Sierra Ferrell’s voice breaking on a high note at the end in the best way. Ferrell brought mythology and intrigue to life on “The Sea”, nailing different voices and sounds on the fantastic song, illustrating a true old soul.
On “Give It Time”, the lovely, bluesy folk song was incredible with a simple strum, while “Made Like That” was another beautiful ballad, talking about her character and her Appalachian roots. On “West Virginia Waltz”, Ferrell stepped away from the mic for an impressive belt at the end, her voice broke perfectly and she mouth kazoo’d the outro.
For her final two songs, Sierra Ferrell performed folk standard “Goodnight, Irene”, inspiring the crowd to sing along and finally she played her bright, bluegrass tune “Jeremiah”, a mid-tempo ditty showcasing some stellar guitar work.
Ray LaMontagne played for about an hour and forty-five minutes, wearing a fishing hat and woodsy gear, joined by musicians Seth Kauffman and Ariel Bernstein on the stage for the duration of the headlining set. His tunes highlighted the themes of life and death, love and appreciation for the little things, beautifully taking his listeners on a journey as he sang about numerous places all over the country, from South Carolina to Maine, Colorado to Southern California. He began with the dreamy “No Other Way”, sounding like it was straight out of the 60s folk era, with a truly crisp and clear sound from all instruments. He whispered “I can see through, you can see through me” while the musicians harmonized for the beautiful mood-setting song.
The cheers were aplenty and LaMontagne said simply, “Thank you” and continued with more, with an inviting, delicately controlled vocal on “Beg Steal or Borrow”. The instrumentation was lush and the song resonated about the rat race we all live in with the lyric, “Dreaming of the day you’re gonna pack your bags, put the miles away, oh just grab your girl and go where no one knows you”.
Ray LaMontagne tuned his guitar for the next song and said “Five years ago, I bought a piece of land on an island off the coast of Maine”. He told the story of the land owner letting his sons pick out their favorite places to live while the rest of the land went into conservation. LaMontagne caught wind of the landowner being passionate about sailing and he went out on the sea on his boat with the man. “I have since put a house there where he intended to”, said LaMontagne, followed by applause. “It was cold and rainy and beautiful in May and I was sitting on the point and the fog swirled around me and everything was suddenly gone. What I had seen fifteen minutes before wasn’t the same. It’s moments like that where you get insight into the impermanence and your place in this world, your existence. It’s a gift but you just have to see it. Our lives are so fast and so commerce-driven, but to be that and to feel that and to see that was such a gift”. He shared his story in a very calm tone.
The crowd was all cheers for “Misty Morning Rain” and the lyrics came alive from the story just told, “misty morning rain, all is gone, then here, then gone, then here, then gone again” with LaMontagne singing more powerfully on this one, hitting some really bright, soulful notes. On the sad yet stunning “Ojai”, LaMontagne sang about “hitching a ride up the PCH”, with amazing harmonies from Kauffman and Bernstein when they all sang “Ohhh-jai”, with Bernstein playing drums and hand drums simultaneously.
The spotlight was black and white on Ray as he belted beautifully on “Such A Simple Thing”, with harmonies joining in, outstanding bluesy guitar and a massive applause following. It was one of the most heartfelt vocals of the set.
The stage switched from blue/purple to yellow for the bright “Strong Enough” with the rasp in LaMontagne’s voice shining on this perfect and timeless song. He said “thank you” again very faintly before playing crowd-pleasing new track “Roll Me Mama, Roll Me”. The song opens like a bluesy ballad with lightly-plucked guitar and then picks up with LaMontagne commanding the verses in a raspy whisper, and the song’s magic lays in the juxtaposition of the intense and dreamy parts of the song’s instrumentation and vocals. The Pantages Theatre erupted with excitement.
“To The Sea” brought 60s folk nostalgia front and center, with LaMontagne singing in almost a spoken word manner, with guitarist Kauffman harmonizing the lovely “fa-la-las”.
He said “thank you” again and then mentioned “I met my gal when I was eight years old, she’s been my sweetie since we were 26. I’ve known her for 40 years of my life”, said LaMontagne as he adjusted his harmonica. He told the rather personal story leading up to the next song about his wife Sarah and how she was diagnosed years back with muscular dystrophy. “I wrote this song for her and my son made a little film from her family album. Her green eyes keep popping up in my songs, I just can’t stop loving her”. He started some strums and went into the harmonica and it was one of those moments in live music that you never forget, as the band played “We’ll Make It Through”. The lyric “together we’ll get through, we always do” was particularly poignant, and so emotional with Kauffman joining in on harmonies. The crowd was clearly moved.
“Here’s an old one for you”, said LaMontagne, who played his song “Jolene”, harmonizing again with Kauffman. For the next song, LaMontagne told the crowd the idea started when he was rolling into Boulder for the 5,000th time. “I love Boulder, I wouldn’t want to live there, but I love it. Traveling is sometimes tedious and exhausting, but I do like those late night drives”. He talked about sitting up in the front seat with his mom listening to the radio with the lights. He played “Rocky Mountain Healin'”, kicking off with harmonica and guitar, the type of song you want for a long drive.
“It’s kinda fun that I can say an oldie, I mean really, what a joy”, said LaMontagne. Massive hit “You Are The Best Thing” was next, with both band members echoing “you’re the best thing” while the crowd repeated the soulful chorus.
Newer tune “Summer Clouds” was outstanding, the lyrics are gorgeous and it’s a truly timeless, prayer-like song about appreciating the little moments. Bernstein played the keyboard as LaMontagne and Kauffman strummed, while the powerful lyric “What is life but learning, learning how to cry?” took hold. It was one of the most beautiful of the evening.
“I’d like to invite Sierra Ferrell up here to sing a song with me”, said LaMontagne, and the two played their bluesy duet “I Was Born To Love You”, harmonizing wonderfully. Ray LaMontagne capped off the major part of his set with the bright, mid-tempo “Trouble”, earning big cheers, while his voice wailed through the chorus. The inspiring song ended with LaMontagne whispering “she gave me love and affection” and then he belted it.
For his encore, Ray LaMontagne first bowed when reentering the stage and played “Let’s Make It Last”, singing “days go by so fast, let’s make it last” with beams of multi-colored lights behind the band. He continued with “Morning Comes Wearing Diamonds”, with the memorable line “where she is, the sun is shining”. “Thank you so much, you’ve been a lovely audience, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to leave you with this one”.
The gorgeous instrumentation of “Highway To The Sun” started on the bluesy, yet optimistic ballad with excellent dynamics throughout from all three musicians. LaMontagne sang “Just wanna feel somethin’ real before I die”, later belting out the note at the end of the line “won’t you follow me on the highway to the sun”.
Ray LaMontagne Live Dates
5.12.2022 Oklahoma City, OK at The Criterion
5.13.2022 Irving, TX at Toyota Music Factory
5.14.2022 Austin, TX at Moody Amphitheater
5.16.2022 New Orleans, LA at Orpheum Theater
5.18.2022 Nashville, TN at Ryman Auditorium
5.19.2022 Atlanta, GA at Fox Theater
5.20.2022 Memphis, TN at Orpheum Theatre
5.21.2022 Louisville, KY at Louisville Palace Theatre
5.23.2022 St. Louis, MO at Stifel Theatre
5.24.2022 Indianapolis, IN at Murat Theatre
5.26.2022 Detroit, MI at Fillmore
5.27.2022 Chicago, IL at Chicago Theatre
5.28.2022 Cincinnati, OH at The Andrew J Brady Music Center
5.29.2022 Akoron, OH at Akron Civic
5.31.2022 Hershey, PA at Hershey Theatre
6.1.2022 Philadelphia, PA at The Met
6.3.2022 Washington, DC at The Anthem
6.5.2022 Charleston, SC at N Charleston PAC