Concert Review: Ray LaMontagne brings ‘Supernova’ to life

LOS ANGELES-Ray LaMontagne let the music do the talking during an intimate 70-minute show here to promote his new album, “Supernova.”

Open only to Citi card members and with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Musicians on Call charity, LaMontagne ran through “Supernova” in its entirety.

Set in Los Angeles” Cathedral Sanctuary, the gothic church”s high stone arches and elegant, plain chandeliers provided the perfect backdrop to LaMontagne”s often ethereal music. With only five spotlights focused on the band, LaMontagne often performed in an appealingly shadowy glow.

LaMontagne opened with “Gossip in the Grain,” the title track to his 2008 album, but he quickly segued into material from “Supernova,” including swirly, psychedelic, organ-filled album opener “Lavendar” and robust “She”s The One,” which took on a wilder and woolier life live than on the Dan Auerbach-produced album. Similarly, “Smashing” was greatly enhanced by its live  presentation, which included a cut-time, funky break not in the recorded version. Conversely, the title track (and first single) lost some of its infectious, jangly shimmer performed live.

Bolstered by a four-piece band that included opening act The Belle Brigade”s Barbara Gruska on drums and harmonies and Zachariah Hickman, best known for playing with Josh Ritter, on bass and harmonies, LaMontagne easily segued between new material and older tracks, including the James Taylor-like “For The Summer” from 2010″s “God Willin” & The Creek Don”t Rise,” 2011 Grammy song of the year nominee “Beg, Steal or Borrow” and “Gossip”s” “Meg White,” the most rocking track of the evening.

Never one to interact much with the audience, LaMontagne whispered a few “thank yous” to the crowd and answered, “that”s very sweet,” when a chorus of “I love you, Ray” broke out between songs. He also replied that he was drinking lemonade and trying to stay healthy when someone asked what he was sipping, but other than that, he was silent between songs, which made for some awkward pauses as he changed guitars between each song, but not enough  to hamper the show.

LaMontagne alternated between his haunting falsetto and his gruff rasp, although on some songs, it felt like he was pushing his voice to the breaking point, resulting in a few shaky vocal moments. On the whole, however, his voice remained a distinctive, emotional vehicle for his often deeply romantic lyrics. While his voice may have faltered at points, he closed the main show with “God Willin” & The Creek Don”t Rise,” showcasing a vocal power, as he bellowed “Oh my love” repeatedly, that was as surprising as it was striking.

He returned for an encore of “Drive-In Movies,” the evocative, nostalgic song that closes “Supernova,” leaving hits such as “Trouble” and “Shelter” left undone. That will undoubtedly not be the case when he kicks off a full-scale summer tour May 27 in Portland (Maine”s) Cumberland County Civic Center.