REVIEW: Ray LaMontagne – November 20th 2006 – The Paramount Theater, Denver, CO

The Scene: The show was sold out and the KBCO crowd was out in force tonight. 25 – 35 preppy white folks dominated the theater. There was a contingent of younger, college-aged, fans but Denver is just too far from Boulder to have them come out in droves. On the whole the crowd was very quiet and attentive to LaMontagne’s whispered vocals but at times the chatter in the back of the theater was audible. I think this was largely due to the fact that the PA was simply not turned up loud enough.

Tickets were going for up to $100 dollars on the street outside the venue but I did get let in on a little secret as I was picking up my tickets in the box office. A man walked in and asked if there were any tix available. The woman behind the glass told him there were “very few tickets available.” In fact the only tickets that she had were Wheelchair Accessible Seats that they had been holding for sale to persons with disabilities. Since the show was about to begin she could release them. The kicker here is that the seats were in the front row to the right of center. So this guy walks in the night of the show (after the designated start time) and gets front row seats. Sounds like a boon to me! The morale of the story here is, always check the box office for tickets before you spend more than face value on the street.

Opener: Reed Foehl. I missed his entire set.

Ray LaMontagne: LaMontagne has exploded over the past couple of years. Just 2 years ago I caught him opening for Badly Drawn Boy at the Fox in Boulder to probably 100 people and today he is selling out 2,000+ seat venues.

One of the risks of moving to bigger venues is filling it with your sound. This was where the show at the Paramount was lacking. LaMontagne’s voice is a hushed whisper to begin with and with the right PA mix he could have warmed each person individually. Unfortunately the right mix wasn’t there and the audience behind the soundboard was left straining to hear for much of the show.

Despite his obvious shyness and his quiet, reserved nature, LaMontagne played the role of band leader very well. The onstage communication seemed to work very well and the band really sounded like a unit. While, I do think that the addition of horns or strings could have really improved the show I understand that this adds a huge expense to the tour. I just felt like The Paramount was a bit too big a room for this quiet man from Maine.

Touring in support of his recent release Until the Sun Turns Black LaMontagne played almost every song off the album. Opening with a solid combination of “Be Here Now,” “Empty” and “Barfly” he set a very mellow mood for the evening. The first time the audience got up out of their seats was nearly 40 minutes into the set when LaMontagne broke into the funky single “Three More Days.” This was where the lack of horns was the most apparent. Where the album version of the song has a funk driven power that is uncharacteristic and welcomed, the live version of the song came off a bit flat.

LaMontagne dove into the 70’s for the only cover of the evening. “To Love Somebody” by Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame. After introducing this track as one of the songs that moves him most his version got some in the audience singing along to the classic lyrics.

From here LaMontagne turned the corner on the home stretch and launched into probably his most recognized song to date, the title track of his first album, “Trouble.” Again, the crowd was on their feet and sing along with their favorite skinny bearded troubador. To close out the set LaMontagne slowed the pace way down for two of the mellowest numbers on the new album, “‘Till The Sun Turns Black” and “Can I Stay Here With You”

After a brief break the full band returned and ran through 4 more songs closing things up with the harmoica laced “All The Wild Horses” that rounded out the quiet concert quite nicely.

Overall the show was well executed and presented very well from a performance stand point. I think it would have been better had they either played a smaller venue for multiple nights or scaled up the size of the band. The sound just didn’t fill the room the way it could have and that was a dissapointment. I would have loved to see this same set in the tight confines of the Fox Theatre or perhaps the Bluebird here in Denver.

Energy: B
Sound: B
Muscianship: A-
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: B-

Overall: B

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Who Is Timothy Dwenger

Music has always been a part of my life. It probably all started listening to old Grateful Dead, Peter Paul & Mary, and Simon & Garfunkel records that my parents had, but it wasn't long before they were taking me to concerts like Starship, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Huey Lewis & The News. I got the bug to write about music after reviewing an Eric Clapton concert for a creative writing project in high school but didn't really take it up seriously until 2002. Since then I have published countless articles in The Marquee Magazine and done some work for Jambase.com, SPIN Magazine, and various other outlets. I started Listen Up Denver! as a way to share the music information that is constantly spilling out of my head with people who care. Please enjoy!