Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ray LaMontagne - Beacon Theater, NYC 12/16/06

What happens when you take one meek sounding shoemaker and throw him onstage in front of 2,800 people with a guitar?


For those of you who don't know him, Ray LaMontagne is your next favorite artist. His raspy voice and soulful lyrics tickle your eardrums until you play his songs over and over again, desperately scratching at an itch that (thankfully) won't go away.

On December 16th, I was lucky enough to make it to his show at the Beacon Theater here in NYC. I was excited to finally see Ray live after listening to his two albums Trouble and Till the Sun Turns Black on repeat for so long. Not knowing whether to expect him with a band or solo, I hoped the show would at least be entertaining for my mom and brother who had flown in to town to visit that weekend.

I started the show off in a grumpy mood because we showed up too late to catch Tristan Prettyman as the opener. My mood switched as soon as Ray took his first steps onto the stage with a bassist, drummer, and slide/electric guitarist. He didn't say a word before breaking into my new favorite song off TTSTB, "Empty."

Jack the Rabbit clued me in to the feel of TTSTB, before I bought it, with the opening line of "Empty"...
"She lifts her skirt up to her knees/ Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet laughing."
I seriously could have walked out after that song and gone home happy, but Ray delighted the crowd for another 16 songs before leaving. Over the course of the night, Ray said "Thank you" twice, as well as introducing the band (apologizing for forgetting a member's name...). I had no idea how quiet and shy he was before he spoke between songs. It looked like the microphone scared him...that is, until he started playing. With the energy of his drummer, Ray kicked "Barfly" into an uptempo song that was one of the highlights of the night. I liked it better than the cd version, as I did with most of his setlist. "3 More Days" had me moving in my seat and I haven't stopped hearing it in my head (along with the two excellent horn players that came onstage for a few songs).

He played all the old favorites, as well as the best stuff from TTSTB, before he walked off the stage the first time. My mom asked when he came back for an encore if there was anything he hadn't played that I was waiting for:

"Just one...'Jolene.'"

As I finished saying the words, Ray began to play it. A cap to end the night, I thought. Little did I know, he was still saving surprises. His next song took him a good 5 minutes to introduce, due to his painfully quiet voice and a couple of obnoxious drunk people. However, when he got control of the audience, you could hear a pin drop.

He introduced a new song he'd been working on, but it was as polished as ever. It's probably my favorite song now and the only way to describe it is to give you the title: "You Are the Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Me." Here's a video my brother found of it from that night (poor picture, but decent sound...). You'll have to hear it for yourself to know what I'm talking about.

So of course, Ray finished the night with a great rendition of "Can I Stay" and I was a happy man. Until next time, here's a live version of "Forever My Friend."

Ray LaMontagne -
* Forever My Friend (live).mp3

  1. Empty
  2. Be Here Now
  3. Barfly
  4. Gone Away
  5. Hold You in My Arms
  6. Shelter
  7. 3 More Days
  8. Trouble
  9. Forever My Friend
  10. How Come
  11. You Can Bring Me Flowers
  12. Lesson Learned
  13. Till the Sun Turns Black
  1. Jolene
  2. You Are the Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Me
  3. Burn
  4. Can I Stay?


Welcome to Key to the Universe! This has been a work in progress for the three of us for quite a while, so after 7+ months of talking about it, we are happy to have finally started our music blog. We figured a blog would be the best way for us to keep in contact after graduating from Boston College this past May. After having gone our separate ways across the country, Key to the Universe is our way of staying in touch with each other while continuing to share new music, concert reviews, and cd releases.

It is fitting that our first official post is a review of Ray LaMontagne's recent concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Ray was the first artist that got the three of us talking amongst ourselves about new music and eventually inspired us to start this blog. Hopefully, we'll keep it going for a long time.

If it isn't clear, based on our blog's title and our names, we went with a Springsteen theme for our page. We came up with the title from Bruce's song "Growin' Up":
"Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars/ And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car."
Each of our names is also found in one of our Bruce favorites, "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)." So kick back, relax, and enjoy our ramblings for as long as we can sustain them.