Give the Black Keys Dan Auerbach credit. Auerbach produced singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne’s new album, Supernova and really lit a fire under his ass, providing some much-needed spark to the man’s tempered music. That energy didn’t entirely translate to last night’s show at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, though LaMontagne did perk up by set’s end. Backed by the indie pop outfit Belle Brigade, who also opened the show, LaMontagne, who sounded a bit like Van Morrison with a huskier voice, kept things low-key for most of the 100-minute set (his constant need to adjust the levels of what he heard in the monitors was rather distracting — the sound mix was really sharp).
“Supernova,” the punchy first single from Supernova, added some life to the concert, but LaMontagne followed it up with the somnolent “Ojai,” a gentle song about hitching rides up the California coast. “You still with me?” LaMontagne asked mid-way through the show during one of the few moments when he spoke to the audience. A smattering of applause confirmed that the audience, which filled about three-fourths of the pavilion, was still paying attention, even though you could often hear people having conversations during the soft tunes. Ironically enough, the concert became a bit more lively during an acoustic segment. “Jolene” had a real crispness to it and so did the bluesy “Trouble.” LaMontagne carried that momentum to the set’s end, plugging his electric guitar back in to deliver spirited versions of “Meg White,” on which his whispered vocals actually sounded rather sinister, the free wheelin’ “Julia” and the set closing “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise.” LaMontagne loosened up again in the encore, which featured “Hey Me, Hey Mama” and the infectious “Drive-In Movies,” one of the best songs on Supernova. Ultimately, however, a Ray LaMontagne concert is the equivalent of a chick flick. It’s an emotionally charged experience that brings couples closer together (and you could see plenty of cuddling going on at last night’s show) but has limited appeal.