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Ray Lamontagne @ The Wiltern, 10/30
All photos were taken by the lovely and talented Sandra Vahtel
Last Thursday, the Wiltern dressed itself up in honor of the anti-star, Ray Lamontagne's performance. There were chairs that lined the floor and ushers guided the patrons to their seats. It was all very refined. At least until Mr. Lamontagne took the stage. Then all hell broke loose. The last time I heard so many catcalls and whistles for a male performer I believe was 1998 at a Backstreet Boys concert. And this crap continued before every single song for the entire hour and half he was on stage. There were cries of "I love you, Ray!" and "Marry me!" from grown women all over the auditorium. Given the fact that Ray Lamontagne is renowned for being a very shy, reclusive type, who refuses to give interviews and prefers the shelter of his house in Maine to any big city, the poor man was probably mortified.
So what on earth would provoke this kind of reaction? Mr. Lamontagne is undoubtedly a very fine musician, but so is Andrew Bird and let me tell you the ladies did not lose their minds over him. (Which is odd because he's a very handsome man) Well, if they did they did so silently. But I digress. I was determined to find the reason for this outburst of affection and after careful thought this is what I think it is. Ray Lamontagne makes romance macho.
Think about it. Lyrically, most of Mr. Lamontagne's music is hopelessly sugary. He writes songs about romance, there is nothing lustful or angry about them. Most of them are very straightforward. For example in his song Hold You In My Arms he sings:
Love is a poor man's food
I could hold you in my arms
I could hold you forever
Which one usually finds at the core of most top 40 rubbish, but when Ray's hard gravelly voice is the one delivering them, they suddenly become tough and manly. Completely focused on his music, Mr. Lamontagne delivers his soul to the audience piece by piece. It's really cool. This voice like sandpaper takes the most cloying of songs and turns them into passionate ballads you could imagine Clint Eastwood singing before he disappeared into the sunset. The kind of song that soldiers would sing before they went off to war. The kind of songs men have been singing for centuries when they summon all of their courage, throw caution into the wind, and tell that girl what she means to him.. Ray Lamontagne' s music turns romance into something that is gritty and powerful. Anyway, this my hypothesis is why the women at the show went bananas and why the guys had no qualms about singing along. Romance has lost it's sissy status.
On one last note: I would like to apologize for the lack of photos. The Wiltern has a policy of putting press photographers up against the far wall and keeping them there. They aren't allowed to move towards the stage or change their position. So Sandra got 150 photos of Ray Lamontagne and his band from the same angle. Which is ridiculous. I bet some of you reading this article got better photos on your iPhone.