Ray LaMontagne at Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC with Kiely Connell opening
The Magnetism of an Introverted Artist
Ray LaMontagne is currently wrapping up his Monovision tour this month, and one of his last stops was the Carolina Theatre in Durham, where he captivated the crowd.
Opening up for LaMontagne was Kiely Connell, a guitarist and singer-songwriter out of Nashville, TN who blends folk and blues with her roots in Midwest melodies. Kiely released her debut LP Calumet Queen in 2021. She quickly entrances her audiences with her poetically somber take on a world bleeding of addiction and heartache. Inspiration that Connell is no stranger to. A native of Hammond, Indiana, Connell’s Midwest roots are woven into her lyrics and melodies. Her album is named after the Calumet River where she first experienced heartbreak. She bleeds that ache into her songs as she sings “Nobody’s Business but Mine.”
Too lost to find myself
too stoned to stand
I’ve been preached to on church steps
til I nearly went deaf
but I held Jesus, hey I held Jesus and he knows my kind
so if it looks like I been pulled through the ringer
it ain’t nobody’s business but mine
Discover more about Keily Connell, here: https://www.kielyconnell.com/bio
The theatre was dark. The lights shined brightly on the stage, but directed in a gently eerie presence over LaMontagne who was draped in shadows. A comfort zone perhaps for an introverted artist who pours everything out on stage, while leaving an air of mystery. He kept his hat on the whole show, dropping shadows on his face. He did take the hat off once or twice because someone in the audience shouted for him to “take off the hat.” He did. And he spoke of how disheveled he looked. I learned quickly upon arrival he isn’t fond of cameras. He doesn’t want cameras drawing attention from the performance and he doesn’t care much for pictures of himself. Something I’m sure he’s grown weary of after so many years of performing and being held under the weight of the lights and scrutiny.
A self-described mountain man, LaMontagne grew up one of six children raised by his single mother in Nashua, New Hampshire. He told stories between songs and explained where he came from and how little he had. He created so much from so little, inspiring people to really feel, even the hard stuff, a little more. He gave bits and pieces of himself in an effort to meet the audience where they were. Instead of drowning in his struggles he pushed outward, allowed himself to be vulnerably connected through music. LaMontagne is a private family man. One can sense that he lives deeply, with a pristine focus on presence and value. A man who writes the most beautiful words and enriches them in song. When all the words are gone, it’s the language of his melody and range that emphasizes the feelings and connects us all a little deeper. The way he sings is as if he were speaking words that have yet to be defined. An artist who encourages us to flood with love in a world that is terrified of anything real. The risk of vulnerability is not for the faint of heart, but for those willing, the reward proves to be worth it in the end.
LaMontagne gifted the audience with some of his more popular songs like, “You Are the Best Thing,” “Trouble,” and “Jolene.” When those songs played the energy lifted among the crowd in recognition, thankful to get to hear their favorites in person. LaMontagne, known for love songs that he sings so passionately. It’s no wonder there’s an air of pain there. Love is beautiful. But it is also painful. The truth is, there’s no way to escape the pain that will come eventually. You choose to love, you choose to hurt. We accept that because love has that much of a grip on us. And we appreciate how Ray LaMontagne expresses so clearly what we are feeling inside. Makes lovers feel a little less alone. It’s no wonder those songs are hits.
You can feel the spectrum of what he’s felt so deeply. The deeper we hurt the more we are capable of loving. Much like love, there is something in the way he performs that I cannot fully explain. What he does with his voice. He takes his range so deep but not as in low. He sings from the spectrum. From some sanctified territory within, the deepest corners of his soul. Wildly introspective but stripped in front of an audience. It feels so vulnerable and brave. A glimpse of his naked soul but rarely his face. Maybe that would just be too much for him. Or maybe for us. He certainly gives enough. I understand that. I’d rather feel his soul anyway. Maybe we feel more that way. We open our hearts in a different way when our eyes are closed.
And that’s just what the audience did as Ray sang away to songs from his 2020 Monovision album. Songs like “I Was Born To Love You” and “We’ll Make It Through”, the audience pulled their partners in close and swayed together. Some standing at the back with arms wrapped around one another.
I Was Born To Love You
Times were tough, we made it through
We tasted the rough, so let’s savor the smooth
All the time I was hurting you
Got to believe that I was hurting, too
I was born to love
I was born to
Born to love
I was born to
You’re the only one I can talk to
The only one I can really read
I know you give because you want to
Don’t you think it’s time you learn to let yourself receive?
Could make you smile, could make you sing
Just want to give back a little bit of what you give me
I could sing you a song, play you a tune
I know it’s just a little thing, but it’s something I can do
LaMontagne took the audience for a ride moving slow into “Misty Morning Rain” and “Summer Clouds.”
Summer clouds don’t worry about tomorrow
To the crowds delight, Ray LaMontagne ended the show with an encore of 4 additional songs before the show came to a close. He expressed his gratefulness to everyone in attendance and rolled out just as gently as a he rolled in. Leaving us all in reflection of the experience.
Ray was so quiet when he spoke that I could barely hear him from the back of the room. I craved his silence. Savored it. Maybe it was the magnetism of his introverted and vulnerable nature. He was feeling things. I wanted to hear the silence. See what art he would make with it. When he softly speaks, or passionately sings, you listen. It was he that had a grip on us. As if love were standing right there, disheveled and stripped, inviting us in. And we were all there, grateful for the invitation.
Find tour information and more for Ray LaMontagne here: https://www.raylamontagne.com
By Shana Thompson @shanaleighphoto