Ray LaMontagne turned Hammersmith Apollo into his living room for an hour and a half in the first of two gigs at the West London venue on May 16.
Ray’s brand new acoustic tour, spawned from his new album, ‘Part of the Light’, saw him return to the UK for the first time in almost 10 years.
And it was a crowd who’d clearly been waiting for his return – the 3000 strong attendees making no secret of their joy at seeing the grammy winner on British soil once more.
He opened the show with ‘No Other Way’, a track from his 2014 album ‘Supernova’.
The New Hampshire native then reeled off ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’ and ‘Lavender’ in quick succession, the crowd mesmerised by the richness of his voice, which was supported by the backing vocals and bass of John Stirratt, bassist for alternative rock band Wilco.
Pausing after the first three songs, Ray addressed the room, saying it had been a long time, to which one member of the crowd responded: “We know!”
The biggest cheers of the night came for ‘In my own way’, ‘Old before your time’ and, of course ‘Trouble’, with the crowd joining Ray in the husky ‘I’ve been saved by a woman’ line.
New tracks from ‘Part of the Light’ were interspersed throughout the set, and were well received by the audience, creating some of the most intimate moments of the night.
The standout songs included ‘Let’s make it last’ and the album lead single, ‘Such a simple thing’ which describes the hearts of two lovers as like paper and a flame, with one inevitably getting burned.
The encore was a mashup of ‘Jolene’ and ‘All the wild horses’ followed by one final song – ‘Part two – wouldn’t it make a lovely photograph’.
As Ray stood on the Apollo stage, signature hat on his head, rug under his feet and videos of rivers and tranquility playing in the archway behind him, he thanked the crowd for coming and gave a shout out to the show opener, Freya Ridings.
A London native, Birdie-esque Freya had opened the show instyle, punctuating her self declared ‘catalogue of sad songs’ with one happy one, ‘Unconditional’, which she dedicated to her hometown audience.
The impression you get of Ray LaMontagne when you listen to his albums or read his interviews is the experience you get when you see him live.
It’s talent, intimacy, truth, and the ability to connect with an audience like not many artists can.
For some, that may seem complicated, but for Ray, like the title of his latest single, it’s ‘such a simple thing’.