Review | The Ramble Tour Finishes Up In Austin

I’m stopping by TSM to share an evening of great music with everyone – the Ray LaMontagne & Levon Helm Band show from Austin, Texas.  LaMontagne took the stage first for the mini-tour’s finale, much to the delight of the audience portion comprised of 15-25 year old girls there to see him – and him alone.  Not one for much fanfare and showmanship, the singer/songwriter stood off to the side and just began to play.  He moved through his first few slow tunes, including You Can Bring Me Flowers, before uttering a word to the crowd.

The artist kicked it up a notch by whipping out his blues harp and wailing on Henry Nearly Killed Me.  This was followed by the Levon Helm Band horns coming on stage to join Ray & The Pariah Dogs for a rowdy take on the new album’s opening tune Repo Man.  LaMontagne then turned it back down a few notches and finished the set with a slow version of the fan favorite You Are the Best Thing and pleased everyone’s ears before stepping off stage for a few moments.

The singer and his band came back out and played a fan (and commercial) favorite Trouble – no white dog dreaming about his bone this time around.  Next, LaMontagne welcomed out a special guest for the first time, Ms. Cindy Cash, for a cover of the infamous Waylon tune Mama Tried.  The act finished up with another great cover in I’ve Forgotten More Than You Will Ever Know and a folksy original Hey Me, Hey Mama.  LaMontagne showed off his voice all night.

After an intermission, Levon Helm came on to roars from the elders in the crowd and immediately came out of the gate with a hit from The Band, The Shape I’m In.  In the past, this was sung by the legendary Richard Manuel, but on this night the Levon Helm Band’s keyboardist Brian Mitchell took the reigns and filled his shoes nicely – only missing a plaid sport coat and beard.  Followed by a nice take on Long Black Veil, sung by the soulful group singer Teresa Williams, the set was off to a great start.

The band then shook on some cajun seasoning, covered the political Bourgeois Town, and followed it up with the classic Ophelia.  This got the (whole) crowd up for the first time and was a great thing to hear live.  Levon then moved to center stage and picked up a mandolin for the next tune, a great blues standard Deep Ellum Blues.  Helm & his band kept everyone on Bourbon Street for a couple more songs, including the Dr. John boogie Mardi Gras Day which again got the crowd doing their best white folk dancing into the aisles.  The horns even did their own Treme impression, parading around the stage sans microphones and simply blaring their brass to the crowd.

Next, the highlight of the evening arrived.  Helm welcomed Mr. LaMontagne back out onto the stage for a very strong cover of Dylan’s Tears of Rage, and then laid out a great original blues track When I Go Away.  Next, the finale… it was almost easy to see coming, and did not disappoint.  After welcoming out every musician in the building that night, the group went into a stirring rendition of The Weight, led off by LaMontagne and aided by opening act The Secret Sisters.

It seemed that could be it, but an encore came and a la The Last Waltz, the group went into I Shall Be Released and had the crowd captivated till then end.  A great show from an absolute legend and a great group of musicians.

~ by braleighwood on November 19, 2010.

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