Ray LaMontagne Invites Us To Be “Part Of The Light” The soulful singer-songwriter performs a meditative collection of songs that forces listeners to look ahead, instead of back.
LOS ANGELES, CA — Ray LaMontagne has no interest in looking back. A singer-songwriter known for his warm, soulful voice and folk-rock sentiments who broke out with his coffee-shop heartbreakers in 2004’s Trouble, has evolved; and his stop at Los Angeles’ gorgeous outdoor venue in Griffith Park at the Greek Theatre on a warm Sunday’s summer night forced us to look ahead with him.
In the title track for LaMontagne’s newest release and seventh album Part Of The Light, he sings: “Why so many people always run around / Looking for a happiness that can’t be found.” He then continues: “I want to be a part of the light / I choose to be a part of the light.”
His lyrics and new work are telling of our times. At 44-years-old and a seasoned singer-songwriter, LaMontagne embraces the here and now. If audiences are looking for him to sing familiar country-folk blues all night, they may be slightly disappointed, because LaMontagne is moving forward.
His live performance could be described as dizzying and soulful. Big LED screens projected behind him with psychedelic-like visuals make the casually-dressed artist, in loose jeans, a button-up, brown boots and full-beard, look like he is floating in outer space.
He sifted through his setlist diligently, going song after song and saying few words. “Talk to us!” a fan said out loud as the respectful crowd listened peacefully.
He opened with “Julia” and “Lavender” from 2014’s Supernova, an album that shows LaMontagne drifting away from his folk-rock sentiments and incorporating more rock guitars and a psychedelic sound. (His prior album with the Pariah Dogs in 2010’s God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise was full of folk-rock bluesy goodness.) He then went into material off his new album with “To The Sea” and “Part Of The Light,” offering quiet and controlled melodic-rock music that invites your close attention and listening.
For those of his fans who were longing for more upbeat fare, LaMontagne performed songs like “Paper Man” and 2016’s catchy and upbeat fuzzy rock guitar tune “Hey, No Pressure”. Those moments awoke the crowd, and with his backing band of four rock and rollers, had those in the audience who were previously sitting, up and swaying to the music.
LaMontagne, who wielded an electric guitar for a majority of his set with a few solo breakdowns, is embracing the here and now. His setlist didn’t include any songs from his first four albums (fans wanting to hear “Trouble,” “Shelter,” or my personal favorite “This Love Is Over,” would have to accept the man’s evolution).
As a whole, LaMontagne still shines with his meditative and introspective tunes. When he took to his acoustic to sing his single “Such A Simple Thing,” the crowd seemed to light up. A song that embraces a more familiar approach to LaMontagne’s older catalogue with heartbreaking sentiments as he sings, “Tell me what your heart wants / Such a simple thing / My heart it’s like paper / Yours it’s like a flame,” the song is a simple yet powerful tune that highlights LaMontagne’s warm and soulful voice that melted crowds’ hearts as when he was first on the scene.
LaMontagne played “The Changing Man” and “While It Still Beats,” two songs off 2016’s Ouroboros, for his encore.
While his set may have lacked many of the songs from earlier in his repertoire, his newer meditative songs invited us to look at the here and now to embrace his sentiments of being “part of the light.”
In an interview with AZCentral, LaMontagne has said, “[I’m] just trying to remind myself on one hand of what is really important and precious and beautiful about life and on the other hand trying to figure out what the hell is going on … And I’m sure that’s where all the songs come from, in just trying to remind myself of how lucky we are just to be here and be able to feel.”
LaMontagne echoed that sentiment when he thankfully acknowledged the crowd at the end of his performance with a, “Thank you for coming, thank you for being here.”
LaMontagne’s presence is quite remarkable. As an artist who is known for playing what he wants, when he wants, he held fast to his own at The Greek. In a world that often ceases to challenge the changing world, looking for ways to answer to it or become a part of it, LaMontagne looks beyond the chaos.
“It[‘s] … just trying to obviously remind myself of what’s important, what’s real, what’s beautiful, and realize that you can’t change the world,” he continued about his songwriting process, as a way of “talking to yourself.” “All you can do is change yourself or the way you relate to the world.”