Ray LaMontagne with David Ford. At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, November 11.
Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks
When it comes to musical projection, Englishman David Ford is unrelenting. Be it in voice or instrumentation, Ford literally throws everything he has into his music. A song like “I Don’t Care What You Call Me” might start off with resignation to romantic fate, but the tone of the song casually builds into an affirmation of defiance. A harmonica wails and Ford ardently belts out the same chorus that not so long ago floated in fragile beauty.
While emotional containment propelled the former, it was instrumental theatrics that conveyed the temper of “State of the Nation.” A simple guitar line was recorded and looped. Another guitar line was then added along with a dose of shakers. Sliding from instrument to instrument, even a bang of his guitar became entrenched within Ford’s evolving soundscape. It might well be an extroverted musical display, but Ford perfectly tempers his enthusiasm and never allows it to become overly indulgent.
Just as Ford gregariously bounded off the Lobero stage, Ray LaMontagne timidly took to it. With the lights dimmed, LaMontagne stilled any extraneous banter and allowed his music to be his passage of communication. And while much of his musical attitude is communicated through vocals ranging from a gravelly rasp to a bellowing cry, his onstage presence between songs lay in stark contrast. A song’s conclusion was often met with a wipe of the brow, a genuine yet hesitant “thank you,” and a nervous scratch of his head.
There is an implicit beauty within this contradiction and all tentativeness disappears when LaMontagne is consumed by the music. In songs like “Three More Days” he charges his way through an R&B-infused shuffle and “Trouble” sees the singer/songwriter bobbing at the microphone with eyes tightly closed as he cries out the chorus. Despite his passionate servitude to the song’s delivery, the delicateness of the creator echoes the brooding temperament of his songs. Ray LaMontagne may well be shy and reserved, but he unleashes a musical force with which to be reckoned.