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Monday, November 16, 2009

Last Night: Ray LaMontagne at the Nob Hill Masonic Center

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 10:50 AM

click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
But LaMontagne mixed up his set with quite a few songs from his older albums, like "Shelter and "Sarah," and of course, "Jolene," which he said had been dubbed by Elvis Costello as his signature song (Costello said his own signature song is "Alison" because it still reliably draws new fans). LaMontagne added that he had the opportunity to "fuckin' rock out" with the OG singer-songwriter on Costello's TV show, Spectacle. If he makes the cut, he'll be appearing on the show soon along with John Prine and Lyle Lovett. Watching Costello play up close and personal, he said, was definitely something on his "list of things not to forget." 

click to enlarge JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
Gushing about Costello was just about the only banter a very patient LaMontagne fed to a very impatient, sold-out crowd. Sometimes it seemed that as LaMontagne became increasingly calmer, tuning his guitar or just pacing slowly around the stage between songs, the crowd became more restless. "Play Hannah!" They shouted. "Barfly!" "Three More Days!" "Play whatever you want!" "You look great!" LaMontagne responded politely when he felt like it ("I only look great because you're 60 feet away from me," he said, peering into the dark. "You look great too!"). But it was only when one member of the crowd shouted "Freebird!" that LaMontagne finally cracked: "How many thousands of concerts have you been to where someone shouts 'Freebird'?" he said. "And still you laugh. It's just not funny."

LaMontagne did not play "Freebird," no matter how many times crowd members shouted it, but he did play a wide selection that spanned all three of his albums. The Maine-based musician has come a long way from his days working in a shoe factory -- he reportedly quit his job there to pursue a career in music after inspiration struck while listening to a Stephen Stills song on the radio. After hearing LaMontagne play last night, we're pretty sure it was just about the smartest career move he could have made.

Critic's Notebook

By the way: The Masonic Center was a fittingly intimate venue for the acoustic show, which featured a host of voices deserving of the highest quality sound. Due to the unforeseen nightmare that is parking around Nob Hill, I missed the very first show opener, Lauren Shera, but caught the end of the second opener, an Illinois-based singer-songwriter named Lissie. She quickly won me over with her soulful lullabies that included the happy birthday song--with the monkey ending (i.e., "you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too") for a young relative.

Personal bias: This was my first time seeing a show at the Masonic Center. Next time I will a) ride my bike and b) remember to dress like I'm going to the opera.



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Anna McCarthy

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