June 20, 2018
Over the past few years, there have been about a million different thinkpieces online about how rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Some of their arguments include: rap and pop are dominating the Billboard charts, the rock categories in the Grammys are essentially a joke, and, as Bono puts it, it “has gotten very girly.” However, one thing was evident at the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre on Tuesday night: rock and roll is alive and well.
Before Ray Lamontagne took the stage; the Queen City was treated to singer-songwriter and member of indie supergroup The New Pornographers, Neko Case. Backed by a large cast of musicians, including two dedicated vocalists, Case played a short set of material, mostly pulling from her most recent album Hell-On. She commanded the stage while maintaining a laid-back, casual atmosphere by engaging the audience throughout the evening, dedicating a song to women everywhere, and hinting that she may be back in the area in the near future. Her vocals were strong and her songwriting sharp as always. Neko Case is one of the many, many women creating powerful, articulate rock music right now, and proves that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being “girly.”
As the sun set on the warm Charlotte evening, Ray Lamontagne and his band appeared on the stage to thunderous applause. Lamontagne took the center stage donning a cowboy hat, and wasted no time before striking his electric guitar to begin the first song. The band joined in immediately, and it soon became clear what a strong, meticulous group of musicians was on stage. Each member played their parts precisely and effortlessly, creating a massive sound that flooded the amphitheater with beautiful noise and good vibes.
Lamontagne‘s set demonstrated two sides of his songwriting very clearly: the folk balladeer and the psychedelic rocker. When armed with his acoustic guitar, he would play slow, sweet songs to make the ladies in the audience swoon. Slide guitars flew in and out, and band members provided gentle harmonies. But when Lamontagne had an electric guitar in hand, things got rowdy. His voice would take on a raspy growl, the tempos picked up, and the songs became a flurry of guitar solos and drum fills as the band jammed on extended outros. The guitarist used a large variety of guitar effects to create a variety of different textures during these songs, and his solos were immaculate. Each time he finished a solo, cheers could be heard from all around the audience as excited fans showed their appreciation for his beautiful work.
As the night wore on, it became clear that Lamontagne was not there to please the crowd. Songs were pulled mainly from his most recent three albums, especially this year’s Part of the Light. Stage banter was almost nonexistent, as the band tore through song after song without rest. Audience members would yell out requests for old favorites, including the popular “Jolene,” but he seems to have moved on and is focused on the more trippy, psychedelic, and electric focus of his recent albums. It’s bold of an artist to turn his back on his most popular work, but if he continues down this path he may find his fanbase expanding past the audience that his early music brought him.
Check out the remaining 2018 tour dates for Ray Lamontagne.