Ray LaMontagne / David Gray
Chastain Music Park
David Gray and Ray LaMontagne rolled into Atlanta on a beautiful Monday night, both touring behind their new albums, Foundling and God Willin & The Creek Don’t Rise respectively – both albums recently (and coincidentally) released on the same day. The pairing seems almost apropos, both diving deep inside for lyrical and emotional themes that would certainly turn a fan of one into a fan of the other.
After a short fifteen minute stint by Serena Ryder, the crew began loading Ray Lamontagne’s gear on stage as the shuffling crowd began to make their way to their seats, where most would remain the entire night.
LaMontagne and his flock took the stage without the slightest smile or any indication of excitement; perhaps in awe of the fact that the setting still had an empty feel. LaMontagne is touring with a newly named band, The Pariah Dogs, and has taken a little more of a country feel with his newest album. LaMontagne is a musician, songwriter, and vocalist. Rather than even attempt showmanship, he instead allows his well-crafted lyrics and throaty folk vocals to speak for themselves. At times this proved to be a liability as the crowd continued to shuffle in and talk amongst themselves instead of taking note that there was a performer on stage.
The Pariah Dogs drove through the set list with only the slightest pauses for LaMontagne to change guitars or speak with his band. The majority of the set supported of the new record, including the title track, "Repo Man" and "New York City is Killin’ Me."
The band also managed to bring forth the more notable and crowd pleasing efforts from LaMontagne’s career. Songs like "Trouble," "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a shame)," and "Hold You in My Arms" left the crowd in more approving spirits as evidenced by the applause at the end of each song. However, once the applause died, the chatter continued until it was time to clap again.
The set ended at nearly 70 minutes on the dot, as unimpressively as it had begun. Ray and his Pariahs parted ways with the Atlanta crowd with a "Thank you, thank you very much, thank you," the only time LaMontange addressed the crowd the entire night.
The sun had nearly set just past 9 pm. After another quick stage change, David Gray made his way to the stage as a mere silhouette and started his turn with the title track from Draw the Line. Gray had a four piece band backing him which augmented his stage presence, erratic bobblehead dance moves and (at times) forced guitar parts to create the powerful, emotion-filled sound of which the Gray faithful have grown so fond.
Moving back and forth throughout the night from guitar to piano, Gray showcased his multi-faceted arrangements. The mood in Chastain’s amphitheatre seemed to be more attentive, but still full of mostly listeners as opposed to dancers. The tune, "Sail Away," did spur the crowd into showing some signs of life, even if it was in the form of a sing along.
Gray weaved his way through mostly old and crowd-favored tunes including a 15-minute rendition of "Nemesis," "Stella the Artist" and "Be Mine." The highlight of the evening came in the form of the emotionally charged power ballads "This Year’s Love" and "Flame Turns Blue." Both had the near-capacity crowd under Gray’s instruction and direction, standing and singing along as the accompanying Chastain choir.
While many had returned to their seats for more chats, texts or whatever else seemed to keep them off their feet, Gray segued into his Top 40 hit from a few years back "Babylon." Again, under a somewhat distressed disposition, Gray charged the crowd with getting back on their feet as the song served as a call to action for a dance filled night ending song.
After a short pause, Gray made his reappearance to the stage for his final three song curtain call. Those who did not make their way to their cars during the break were treated to "In the Morning" and "Kathleen" which made their standard set list appearance followed by one last plea from Gray for some help from the crowd with "Please Forgive Me."
Gray has built his reputation as a great performer on the strength of his solid songwriting and proved it this night. While the crowd lacked energy, he put on a top notch performance that confirmed that his live show should not be dismissed by anyone with reservations.