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Show Review: Ray LaMontagne/the Belle Brigade Meadow Brook Theater Sun June 15

Last Sunday night was one of those nights made for an outdoor concert. The skies were clear, the air was warm with a nice breeze flowing and Meadow Brook Theater was the perfect setting for a show. The main attraction was Ray LaMontagne playing his songs that are as soothing and unsettling as his vocals are raspy and sweet. Ray has quite a following here as the place was packed with fans in light and loose, colorful clothing that could have this mistaken for a Grateful Dead show.

Opening the night was the Belle Brigade, a brother-sister act from Los Angeles. The Sister, Barbara, was the drummer for the band and her brother, Ethan, played guitar. Most of the songs were sung by both of them with Barbara taking the lead vocal and Ethan singing along. They harmonized brilliantly with upbeat, sunny songs leaning towards folk-rock with an edge. Most of their short set was from their latest release Just Because. Their musicianship was plainly on display as they were also part of Ray LaMontagne’s band.

Ray LaMontagne is known as sort of a present day Joe Cocker with heartfelt songs he wrenches through his gruff vocals. However, that’s just one side of Ray as on his new album, Supernova, he’s pulled back the sandpaper pipes and pushed forward a softer side with psychedelic tendencies. His setting was a large backdrop of changing images and lights focused on whichever band member was taking the forefront of each song.

I’m not a big fan of the rootsy rock genre that Ray falls into, however, I did find most his songs were musically interesting but lacking a bit of excitement. Ray could have also infused a bit more personality throughout his set as most of the words spoken between songs were “Thank you’s”. With such strong songs as “Jolene” and “Trouble” that the crowd clearly loved, I’m sure he has stories that go along with them but maybe he just prefers the songs to speak for themselves. I won’t complain further because overall it was a pleasant set backed by some great musicians on a very beautiful night.

Review and Photos by Mikel O.D. of MPAD Media