On an unseasonably cool summer evening, fog and mist swirled around as people checked the merch table for hoodies before moving on to their seats. Ah, summertime in Boston. Thankfully, in two different ways, both Ray LaMontagne and Neko Case provided some fire and warmth from the stage, even if Case to had to run in place a bit to get the blood circulating. She’s got a new record out now and spent the bulk of her set playing songs from it. That’s ok; when her retrospective box set came out she dug deep into the catalog to play some hidden gems like “Ghost Wiring,” “Bought And Sold” and “Nothing To Remember,” her contribution to the Hunger Games soundtrack. Now, she’s just released one of the strongest records of her career and it was a pleasure to hear so much of it tonight, once the barn-burner (sorry, poor choice of words there) of “Man” started things off. (Just an aside – if you are new to Neko and her music, the stance of “Man” pretty clearly sums up her clenched fist/gritted teeth/don’t fuck me over attitude). Standouts included the haunting title track “Hell-On” with its beautiful musical interlude that changes the entire tone of the song about two-thirds of the way, and “Oracle of the Maritimes,” another example of a masterpiece in building tension slowly but surely. Case seems to have pretty much overhauled her entire band aside from guitarist Jon Rauhouse, with Rachel Flotard and Shelley Short subbing in for longtime backing singer/comedic foil Kelly Hogan but they were plenty tight and the stage banter was still enjoyable. Hopefully Case books a headlining gig in Boston on the tail end of this tour since she deserves more than 45 minutes on stage.
LaMontagne’s released a new record as well and the New England native also leaned heavily on that material, with a healthy dose of previous records Supernova and Ouroboros. He made it pretty clear early on that he’d be staying with newer material and snapped back with a terse “I’m not playing that fucking song” when someone in the crowd yelled out for “Jolene.” Thankfully, that black mood vanished pretty quickly, and Ray seemed to be well at home playing the material, a much more muscular take than the gentle to the point of breaking folk style from early records. Still, nestled among burly blues rockers like “No Answer Arrives” or the hard-charging “Black As The Blood Is Blue” were pretty moments like the Beatlesesque pastoral psych of “Lavender” and the gentle Cat Stevens-like strummer “To The Sea.” While Carl Broemel’s main gig with My Morning Jacket has a temporary hiatus, he’s filling time by playing guitar in Ray’s band and absolutely smoked the closing bit of “Hey No Pressure”; interestingly, MMJ main man Jim James produced that record and played guitar on that track, so that record was well named.
Photos of both bands:
Created with flickr slideshow.