“Welcome to Vegas, Ray!” These words shot from the darkness of the Pearl theater, toward the end of Ray LaMontagne’s 75-minute set. They were uttered by an anonymous (and perhaps drunken) fan, but spoke for many of the 2,000 or so people in attendance, who’d waited years for the bearded singer-songwriter to perform in Las Vegas. On Sept. 3, he finally did. And it was well worth the wait.
LaMontagne opened with two songs from his latest album, God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, the measured “For the Summer” and bluesy “New York City’s Killing Me.” But the set unofficially began when he and his band, the Pariah Dogs, launched into a rousing version of “Trouble” and followed with a soulful “Let It Be Me.” Other highlights included “Repo Man,” featuring an extended intro and scat-style ending, and “Jolene,” which showcased LaMontagne’s scratchy baritone voice.
Prodded by a standing ovation, LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs returned for a one-song encore (“You Are the Best Thing”). They then disappeared into the wings without having played many of his best songs, including “Burn,” “Empty” and “Forever My Friend.”
Oh well. That gives LaMontagne and his band a good reason to return to Vegas. And hopefully, sometime soon.