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Miami Proves It's Capable of Shutting Up and Listening at Ray LaMontagne

Ray LaMontagne dresses like a wilderness survival expert or Indiana Jones’ long-lost brother, and taking into consideration his new record, Ouroboros, and the accompanying tour, his outfits are incredibly apt. His current show is a meticulously crafted, carefully designed journey through time and space, head and heart, which leaves audiences in a much different place than where they first began.

This past Saturday night he made a stop at the Fillmore Miami Beach in a city that is notorious for being belligerent and obnoxious, particularly during events that require some degree of restraint during quieter moments. LaMontagne has made his distaste for interruptions during performances well known in the past, and on Saturday, Miami, you donegood — well, relatively. If compared to previous failed efforts, then, yes, we passed with flying colors. The occasional howling and whooping was reserved for the spaces between songs instead of in the middle of each one.

Effectively operating as his own opener, LaMontagne started the evening gently with a quartet of acoustic songs. Standing alone with his guitar, solitary spotlight cutting through the darkness, he alternately crooned and growled his way through “Burn,” “Jolene,” “Like Rock & Roll Radio,” and “Trouble.” He was able to really let loose during his first huge single, the 2005 hit “Trouble,” when his true spirit came out as he sung about the saving grace that is the love of a woman.

There might not have been a warmup act, but that didn’t mean LaMontagne skimped on guest musicians. His touring band was none other than My Morning Jacket. Considering My Morning Jacket frontman and lead singer Jim James produced Ouroboros, there's no one better qualified to perform this absolute acid trip of a record.

Of course, in a moment of delayed gratification that could only happen in Miami, the crowd had to wait for the electric portion of the show because the fire alarm went off. At first, a very confused audience sat in their seats, eyes darting around, wondering if this was part of the show. It was not. 
According to a pair of first responders we spoke to, an unruly pretzel machine in the lobby set off a smoke detector situated directly above it. After the brief commotion died down and everyone returned to the theatre, LaMontagne and the full band set off on a dreamy psychedelic voyage worthy of 2001: A Space Odyssey or a night under the stars listening to Pink Floyd on your parent’s Hi-Fi headphones.

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Set against the backdrop of a giant moon that changed with nearly every song — from a luminescent white to a deep Mars red to an oily marble rainbow — LaMontagne and My Morning Jacket performed the entirety of Ouroboros in sequence. The songs stretched out for years, reaching beyond this life and into the next. This is his Dark Side of the Moon, and even sans drugs, it elicits a calm, mesmerizing, and peaceful high.

Perhaps part of the reason Miami was so well-behaved was because it was in a trance that only broke when the notes stopped. This record, and indeed this past weekend’s performance, was more about atmosphere than it was about any individual song. There are no real standout hit singles on Ouroboros; it really is one united work of art.

It’s no wonder LaMontagne divided the show into three parts. Ouroboros should be experienced all at once instead of piecemeal. The final third of the concert dipped in and out of the remainder of his discography, including two of his best jams, “Drive-In Movies” and “Supernova.” Seesawing between a whisper and an exhilarated rasp, we saw the most complete Ray LaMontagne performance to date.

Whether he’s getting down with a jangly folk number or swaying underneath a moon-shaped video screen that looks like God's lava lamp, LaMontagne may have reached the apex of the artist we always knew he could be. 

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