Whoever came up with the idea to have these two emotive troubadours tour together was a marketing genius. David Gray and Ray LaMontagne have two of the most distinctive and recognizable singing voices on the music scene today, and seeing them back-to-back on September 8 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in concert was a delight to behold for both my fiancée and me.
Up first was Ray LaMontagne. I had seen him in concert before, but for that performance he was solo and played more of his softer tunes. This time, though, Ray was accompanied by a band and took full advantage of the raucous energy they could create together. These foot-stomping songs (like “Repo Man” and “Devil’s In the Jukebox”) mostly came from his new album, “God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise,” which reveals a more country sound to Ray’s work than we’ve heard on previous albums. You could feel the audience being pulled in by Ray’s quiet and yet commanding presence with his booming and husky voice front and center on each tune.
To my great pleasure, he also played a few of his classics from previous albums, which I can never get enough of, including “Trouble” and “Hold You In My Arms.” My new favorite of his is “Jolene” (not a cover of the Dolly Parton song!) from his first album, “Trouble.” “Jolene” is one of those songs that I had heard a few times and enjoyed, but for some reason had never downloaded. But after watching his mesmerizing performance of this melancholy tune, the very next day I made a point to download it and it has been on constant rotation ever since.
Next up was David Gray, and the tone of his performance couldn’t have been any more different than that of Ray’s. While the notoriously shy Ray very rarely interacted with the audience other than a hushed and humble, “Thank you,” David Gray practically demanded that the audience get to their feet and join him in singing along merrily to his whole show. And that the audience did. David’s set was like a greatest hits collection specifically chosen for my fiancée and me. “Babylon,” “This Years Love,” “Please Forgive Me,” “Sail Away” — these gorgeous songs have touched both of us over the years, and here he was belting them out live with all the vibrancy he could muster.
Even songs that are more heart wrenching and gentle on the albums were turned into rousing chants with the invigorated audience, most notably when he asked the audience to join him for the chorus of “Babylon.” And he was sure to include new crowd pleasers from his latest album, “Draw the Line,” including “Nemesis” and “Fugitive.”
My favorite moment, though, was when he played “Shine,” which is from his first album “A Century Ends” — released way back in 1993. It’s one of those hidden gems about which you assume, ‘Surely I’m the only one who has found this lovely ditty,’ and yet there he was singing his heart out to it for a crowd of thousands.
The show could not have been more perfectly memorable, so I say, “Thank you, Mr. Gray and Mr. LaMontagne for a wonderfully romantic evening for my sweetheart and I.”
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