In the end, this is going to be a show I’ll remember for a long time. But OI! what a ride to get there, with some of the highest highs and lowest lows of a show I’ve seen in quite some time. First, let me set the stage. Ray LaMontagne at the Arlene Schnitzer theatre in Portland. A very blue crowd in a blue city in a blue state the day after the election. And when I say blue, I mean the opposite of red, not depressed.
It’s well known that Ray doesn’t interact much with his audience. But his uncomfortableness was palpable even in the 20th row. I don’t know if it’s stage fright, or just the side effect of being introverted, but his discomfort was so bad it made me squirm. In a rare comment he noted that he has to pull the feeling for the songs from deep within himself and he was so happy with Obama’s victory that he couldn’t adequately perform some of the less upbeat songs.
On a side note, I can’t fathom that he can continue to perform with that kind of anxiety. If you’re a big fan, make sure you see him soon. I worry he’s either going to self-destruct or the Xanax will take the edge out of the show.
Anyway, the bottom line is that he overcame the problem and just kept getting better throughout the show. His voice warmed up and with a stellar backup band by the end of the show he was soaring through a wide range of emotion, lyrically and musically. The encores of “Trouble” and “Jolene” brought the house down. Then came that moment in time. A second encore of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. The entire theatre singing along softly, but audibly. Whew. It was spiritual.
I can’t finish this without a nod to the opener, Leona Naess. I had heard “Leave Our Boyfriends” a couple of times on XM, but nothing else. As introverted as Ray is, Leona is just the opposite. Her voice is clear and powerful, a little like Natalie Merchant, in my mind. She clearly enjoys being up there playing music and it’s infectious. Her set was a serious bonus to an already great show.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.