Buoyed by a fantastic (and fantastically loose) band, singer-songwriter Ray Lamontagne turned the often-repetitive rasp of his most recent album, “Till The Sun Turns Black” (RCA Records) into something far more engaging, limiting his sometimes over-busy arrangements and taking advantage of what is, by far, his most valuable property: his voice. Everything about his presentation — from his beard to the restrained light show — suggested a throwback to ’70s artists like the Band, the Eagles and Van Morrison, whose “Astral Weeks”-era yowls sometimes seems to have been transferred, directly, into Lamontagne’s throat.
By giving the songs plenty of room, Lamontagne allowed his band to experiment with the arrangements, especially bassist Jen Condos who explored subtleties in nearly every note. Drummer Jay Belicose took a jazz approach and Eric Heywood (introduced by Lamontagne in one of his few moments addressing the audience as “the new guy”) played thick, clean guitar leads and one-note steel jams, both equally serving the songs.
It’s a shame those songs don’t stand up to close scrutiny; even the barn-burning “Three Long Days” sounds like a Morrison throwback, and “Trouble,” Lamontagne’s first and only hit, was lost amid its set-filling soundalikes. But Lamontagne’s voice is something rare, and — in an unhinged and frill-less performance like this one — just hearing him sing can be absolutely captivating.
Opener David Ford used the post-election-day giddiness to launch his “State of the Union,” a political call to arms that found him looping everything from shakers to guitars to his own voice to build to a startling crescendo.