Saturday, March 5

Ray LaMontagne / Nerina Pallot @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Support act Nerina Pallot hails from London, although with tracks like ‘Idaho’, she could just as easily be from the other side of the Atlantic.

“I hear you’ve been rebranded today, but I thought Nottingham was perfectly OK before!”, she says showing her local knowledge to cheers from the crowd.

Pallot begins the set on guitar, before switching to keyboard and back again. She possesses a powerful voice, intelligent lyrics, excellent musicianship (particularly on keyboard) and a clear gift for melody.

Her new album ‘Fires’ is set to be released next month and tracks from that comprise much of the set, along with songs from last years ‘Dear Frustrated Superstar’ LP.

Set closer and single ‘Everybody's Gone To War’ gives a political dimension to her work, adding depth to a set that previously been a little lightweight.

Comparisons? You want comparisons? Well, how about a mixture of Tori Amos and Vanessa Carlton, with a dash of Suzanne Vega.

Ray LaMontagne
takes the stage and a hush descends on the Rescue Rooms. Bearded and flanked by a double bassist and a drummer he looks every inch the troubled, acoustic troubadour.

The opening track is a fantastic introduction to his poignant, deeply personal songwriting and rich, fragile, gravelly voice that brings to mind Van Morrison and the Buckley’s.

After the exhilarating start, things go downhill. LaMontagne seems visibly annoyed and spends an age trying to tune between songs, he’s clearly not happy with the sound.

Four or five songs in, his backing band leaves the stage and Ray has still not addressed the audience.

“Is that alright Keith?” He asks his soundman as he again tries to beat the technical gremlins. As an opening conversational gambit, it’s not likely to go down in Nottingham gig folklore, but it breaks the ice and he’s soon cracking jokes with members of the crowd about the strobe lighting.

Things begin to pick up, but he’s still not happy. “It sounds like I’m singing in to a trash can” he moans, before holding his head in his hands.

At this point the audience is beginning to lose interest and talking amongst themselves, as LaMontagne meanders through his set struggling to make himself heard. It’s not going well and Ray knows it.

Near the end of the set his backing band return and suddenly things are infused with a new urgency. ‘Forever My Friend’ lifts the gig onto a new level and the spellbinding album title track ‘Trouble’ leaves the now enraptured crowd baying for more.

Sheepishly LaMontagne returns, again apologising for the sound problems. For the encore he plays ‘How Come’ with his foil, double bassist Chris Thomas showcasing his funky talents and for a moment taking centre stage.

One more beautiful solo track is played to close out the evening, leaving people in no doubt that incredible talent that this singer possesses. Maybe when he returns to Nottingham next time, LaMontagne can deliver a whole set as good as the final four songs.