Ray LaMontagne Charges Nautica Atmosphere with Electricity, Nuance

Last night was a statement show for Ray LaMontagne. Really, actually, this whole tour is. 

"This run of shows this summer is very special to me. This new album is very special to me," he told the crowd last night during a brief acoustic set to start the show. And why not? LaMontagne sounds more comfortable than ever. He's grown into a sound that he's made all his own. 

But first, indeed, LaMontagne hit the stage by himself, picking up a guitar and lighting into "Burn" and a string of breathy tunes from his earlier years. To my ears, the sure highlight was the delicate "Rock & Roll and Radio," from God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise. With blushes of harmonica here and there, LaMontagne drifted across broken-hearted lyrics and wrapped the audience into silent reverie. 

After his monologue on the importance of following your passions and dreams, LaMontagne cut the acoustic set with "Trouble," perhaps his most notable song and yet another tale of unsound souls. 

But one could tell that LaMontagne was most excited for what came next: The guys from My Morning Jacket (sans Jim James) walked onstage and joined the songwriter for a romp across the entirety of Ouroboros, his latest album. (James helped produce the album, and the MMJ boys performed in-studio, as well.) 

The backdrop lit up as a full moon, which eventually danced across each lunar phase, casting an eerie mood across this already pretty eerie music. The moon later bloomed in red, sharpening the visual edge that much more. (By the way, Nautica-goers, how about a hand for the stage crew, yeah?) 

The album — "one song," as LaMontagne describes it — is a fine lesson in dynamics. Tripping from pastoral verses to anthemic choruses and airy bridges betwixt, the new tunes excelled in the live setting. I'll point out in particular "Hey, No Pressure" and the closing "Wouldn't It Make a Lovely Photograph." I was almost taken aback at how heavy some of that stuff became onstage, packaged as it is so neatly in its Floydian studio setting. 

Of course, the band worked its way through a nice tour of earlier LaMontagne cuts — "Lavender," "Smashing," "Supernova," etc. — bringing the statement show to a thrilling close. This was about as excellent a late-June show as I could imagine, here on the banks of the Cuyahoga.