REVIEW: Ray LaMontagne @ Apollo Manchester

Ray Lamontagne used to perform to audiences in almost darkness. He does not feel at ease on stage and he has stated this many times. However, he plays in 30 thousand capacity arenas back home in America. Go figure.

So unsurprisingly on Sunday, he appeared with no frills, dressed in double denim, a cowboy hat down over his eyes with only his guitar a sole amplifier and his bassist from Wilco. The staging simple and subdued.

He launched immediately into No Other Way no words or greeting the crowd. His instantly recognisable voice, quiet but full of texture and warmth. His guitar and mouth organ skills at a level way beyond expectations. Continuing into Beg Steal Or Borrow with barely a whispered thank you, he proved within two songs that it’s not necessary to have pyrotechnics to leave an audience breathless. You just need an incredible voice and an orchestra of two.

He proceeded to woo the adoring crowd, eight years after his last appearance in the city with new and old tracks alike such as Lavender,  In My Own Way and the whispered Airwaves. Although when someone suggested it was too long since his last time here he wryly countered “Maybe…maybe not”

The audience made up of every age group, often acted as if in a religious service. Audibly shouting, demanding specific tracks and hollering in support. He in turn rarely responded with more than a broken whisper for the first twenty minutes. He sang in a variety of tones using that inimitable instrument to deliver an encyclopedia of emotions and drama. The minimal  crowd interaction just making every lyric delivered regardless of volume much more powerful

He then prefaced another new song  Lets Make It Last by explaining his new album was due in a week or so.  Only one lone female voice shouted out “Yes” Clearly aware of his reputation for seriousness, he took the opportunity to sarcastically joke ” That’s quite a response there” to the woman at the back.

During a long interlude when encouraged to talk, he spoke about his cathartic relationship to the sea, his recent breakdown and how he brought it around. He also spoke about his family in a natural and uncontrived manner which lead him nicely into an upbeat To The Sea. He continued then to open up and dedicated a beautiful rendition of Supernova to his partner of 29 years Zoe.

LIke Rock n Roll And Radio was a  true crescendo with people around me in tears and his huge break out track Trouble quickly became a celebratory sing-along anthem for the full house when extended out a few more bars.

He left the stage to rapturous applause and not a single soul seemed to leave their seats until he duly returned with a 3 track encore beginning with Jolene (no, not that one). Followed by All The Wild Horses and one more for the road.

A triumphant 90-minute dialogue between an artist and his fans with only a smattering of words spoken. The rest was all via the medium of a song laced with universal truths.


Ray’s new album just dropped in full today! You can listen to it via Spotify down below!