Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs + The Secret Sisters @ Birmingham Symphony Hall, 20th February 2011


Anyone coming to a Ray LaMontagne gig expecting to see pyrotechnics and rockstar poses is likely to leave feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Ray is a famously reluctant star and, even with an almost sold-out Symphony Hall audience before him, crowd interaction is kept to a bare minimum and LaMontagne even chooses to remain stage left alongside his band rather than hogging the limelight centre-stage.


First up tonight though are the delightful The Secret Sisters, a new-age traditional Country music duo, consisting of vocalists Laura and Lydia Rogers. Their 50’s inspired songs and lovable mannerisms go down a storm with tonight’s audience, many of whom I suspect will be checking them out when they return to play their own gig in Birmingham in May. Their gentle, acoustic music, including a fantastic Merle Haggard cover, may not be something I’d play on my iPod any time soon, but in this setting it works perfectly and sets the evening off nicely.


Ray LaMontagne and his band, The Pariah Dogs, are welcomed like returning heroes as they casually find their positions on stage — positions they remain in for the duration of the set, save for one solo number from Ray. Tonight is not about showmanship though, it’s about a group of amazingly accomplished musicians playing stunning music together, with LaMontagne’s distinctive voice adding the unique flavouring to each impassioned song. He brings the Secret Sisters on stage twice to accompany him and makes it clear he’s a huge fan of the girls. Their sweet voices compliment Ray’s gravely tones well on the old Davis Sisters tune, I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know, but it’s Ray’s solo performance on Like Rock & Roll Radio which, for me at least, becomes a beautiful highlight of an fine evening’s music.


A heartfelt rendition of Trouble helps round off the evening and Ray thanks us for coming and bids us farewell. A reluctant star perhaps, but a deserved one who, while not yet a household name, has proven himself to be one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation.

Review & photos — Steve Gerrard

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