After three years of knowing who Ray was and waiting, waiting, waiting to see him in concert... I have finally accomplished just that. And in fine fashion.
I arrived at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland well before the doors were to open. I was extremely excited and couldn't believe I was only a couple of hours away from realizing my goal. I had a ticket in my pocket for a very decent seat and it was all mine. Then, to the right of the marquee, I noticed a man selling front row tickets. I told myself that my seat was good enough and that I really didn't need to spend the extra money. Nevertheless my curiosity got the better of me. I strolled over and asked the man if he would be willing to accept cash and my ticket for a front row seat. He declined my offer and suggested I try to find someone else to sell my ticket to. Just then a man walked over and wanted to know which seating section my ticket was for. I answered, he made me an offer, I sold, then I bought the front row seat. I felt like I wanted to treat myself to something special and I am so glad I did. The front row placed me right up against the stage and after scoping out my old seat prior to the beginning of the show I know my experience was changed greatly by my position at the head of the concert hall.
If you haven't been to the Schnitz in Portland you are missing out. It is a beautiful theatre that was built in 1929 and originally used for screening movies. Today it is fully restored with grand balconies and flowing architecture. The show began with a very good opening act, a treat since I had never heard of her before. Leona Ness delivered mild acoustic performances and powerful vocals. Her set didn't last long but was sufficient.
Now this is the point at which my words will fail to provide any kind of justice to describing the rest of the evening. Ray did something to all of us in that hall that few artists ever 'truly' pull off. Ray, shared himself with us. Most of the artists that I enjoy are very good at telling stories with lyrics and sound instrumentation. But the artist that spills his guts out for all to see is very rare. Ray even indicated to us that he has to reach deep inside and pull his songs out of his heart when he sings them. He is someone who has loved, been betrayed, given in to his faults, and resurrected himself while accepting his own darkness. He is tough, yet soft... elusive yet accessible.
It takes really hearing his music in order to understand this, and I have provided some of it on this page for you to listen to. When you are done with that there is also a video from a performance in Atlanta of a song from his newest album Gossip In The Grain. The song titled "Winter Birds" perfectly describes the shift from fall to winter and the closeness that a man and a woman feel during this time as they prepare to nest. A much more poetic endeavor into this time of year than John Mayer's attempt at it in his song "St. Patrick's Day" (although a good song), "Winter Birds" is classic Ray, and seeks to not just tell a story but actually transport you to those times in your life.
I will get off my soap box now... however... if there is one concert you attend during the rest of your life. Let it be a Ray Lamontagne concert. This experience is something I will never forget. The crowd became one. I could really feel the love in the room for Ray and his love for us. I can't really explain it any other way than that. It was electric and beautiful, stunning and soothing.
A heart shaping moment.
P.S. If you have someone in your life... grab onto them and listen to this music with them. Especially -You Are The Best Thing-Shelter-Hold You In My Arms. This music is meant to be enjoyed together.