Concert Review: Ray LaMontagne / Tomlinson @ Proctors, 09/16/2023


SCHENECTADY–Ray LaMontagne is a romantic. Or at least the lyrics of his songs suggest a deeply romantic and grounded lover who is consumed with everyday love that involves friendship, emotional support, and connection.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

LaMontagne rolled through Schenectady’s Proctors Theatre with his beautiful lyrics and raspy tenor voice Saturday night, playing with dynamics and language as he played hit after hit in his 90+ minute set. With very little chatter, LaMontagne managed to play 18 of his best-loved pieces as well as two new songs, rounding out the night with heavily romantic songs about long-term love.

Opener Sarah Beth Tomberlin, who is widely known simply by her last name, opened with a thirty-minute set of haunting original songs. Her dry humor, punctuated by a very flat and calm demeanor, was demonstrated as she chatted between her songs about emotion-laden experiences of disappointing relationships. “I tried my best not to water a garden / that didn’t want to live,” she delicately sang, effortlessly dancing through multiple octaves vocally while hallowing out my heart with her words. While impressed by her musicality, her humor in managing a heckler from the crowd who gave her unsolicited (and inaccurate) corrections on how to say Schenectady won my heart. “Oh, I thought it was more like an ‘a’ sound, like in asshole,” she demurred before moving on.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

LaMontagne quietly took the stage shortly after her set and launched into requests made on his social media pages by fans prior to starting the tour. With a sometimes odd/sometimes beautiful/often distracting visual of three screens behind him, LaMontagne worked his way through his set with very little dialogue. Instead, he focused on strumming his guitar with rhythmic intensity, singing through his cannon of love songs with fidelity, and enjoying the feedback from his fans, who frequently called out admiration for him.

As an artist, he’s often compared to varying bands from varying genres, but on Saturday night in Schenectady, it was clearly Americana night. LaMontagne played love song after love song, moving through greats like “Super Nova” to “Hold You in My Arms” with an appealing ease. During the sexy “Roll Me Mama, Roll Me,” Montagne’s ability to whisper sing stood out as a special skill as he eased his voice in and out around the shushing maracas.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

My favorite song of the night was “We’ll Make It Through,” mainly because I was sitting next to my husband, who sang the lyrics while making eye contact with me the entire time. Honestly the whole set list was perfect for date night as Montagne’s songs “You Are the Best Thing” and “Trouble” are torch songs for long-term relationships.

It was a quieter concert compared to many we’ve attended, and the audience at Proctor’s Theatre respected the demands of the milieu, holding off on chatter and only entering/exiting between songs. Proctors doesn’t often host concerts with popular national artists as headliners, but after tonight, I’m hopeful they will continue to do so more often. It was clean, comfortable, and an enjoyable listening room.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

LaMontagne ended his set with a three-song encore, including a beautiful “All the Wild Horses” featuring his harmonica playing. Then, as quietly as he came, he bowed and left the stage. We walked out quietly too, holding hands with the romantic lyrics and energy cloaking us as we entered the chilly September evening.

  1. Chris says

    Such a wonderful show. SaraBeth was phenomenal and Ray and band sounded fantastic. So glad we got tickets and I hope for more like this at Proctors!

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