LaMontagne in the sky with diamonds
For all the talk of New England singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne's folksy craft and winsome ways, in 2014 the gentle beardo with the raspy voice and nicely rhapsodic vibes has added dramatic psychedelia to his mix.
At first, LaMontagne's dip into hallucinogenic waters could only be found on his new album, Supernova, produced by Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. But with Saturday's show at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center, LaMontagne proved he was taking Supernova's tip and moving toward trippy Timothy Leary-inspired sights and sounds to go with his heartfelt emotionalism - an electric Kool-Aid acid test with maple syrup replacing the psilocybin.
What audiences adore about LaMontagne was recognizable throughout his robust performance, which followed Jason Isbell's effectively rocking if unremarkable opening act. On "Beg Steal or Borrow," he still sounded like the coddled love child of Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison as he addressed a young man's fancy turning from his hometown's narrow-mindedness toward howling at the moon.
His swoon-worthy vocals - whispering through a strummed acoustic din, tickling falsetto highs during fuzzy quiet moments, registering on the romantic Richter scale at a hoarse, low rumble - made him pastoral pop's primary voice of romantic reason.
How romantic? There was a proposal in the audience during the show. LaMontagne's voice makes you want to bend your knees.
Still, it was his music's development of kaleidoscopic, psychotronic power that was most impressive when it came to LaMontagne's set. Not only did new songs like "She's the One" and his recently released album's title track sound gutsier and sexier than his usual heart-melting mien, the one-two punch of his opening - featuring "Gossip in the Grain," the title track from his 2008 album, and the swirling, churchy organ's hum "Lavender" - was one of the finest salvos I've heard.
The mix of ambient, churning electric and acoustic guitars, gently snapped snares, and yawning countryish melodies created a purple psychedelic haze for LaMontagne's quietly commanding and passionate voice to swerve through.
I could have listened to that opening all night.