BANGOR, Maine — Balmy breezes and a clear sky gave way to mist and wind as Ray Lamontagne took the stage at the Bangor Waterfront on Thursday night, playing to a crowd composed of young and older alike. Sporting a wide-brimmed hat and dark clothing, the bearded musician played a lithe, gentle blend of country, folk and R&B.
Lamontagne, who has ties to Maine, started off his set around 8:45 p.m. with “Hold You In My Arms,” a song off his debut album, “Trouble,” which shot him to fame in 2005. He followed it up with “For the Summer,” off his newest album, “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise,” which won him a 2011 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. His signature raspy, emotive voice was in perfect form, echoing across the waterfront.
“New York City’s Killin’ Me” was up next, a sad country ballad about a taxi driver yearning to leave the city.
“I think he’s got a beautiful voice, and his songs are kind of sad, but in a really pretty way,” said Karen Smith of Bangor, who was in attendance with a large group of friends. “I think he’s a really great songwriter. We all came out to see him. We’ve been fans since his first album.”
The notoriously camera-shy Lamontagne was shrouded in low light for most of the show, whispering thank-yous between each song but mostly letting his music speak for itself. The passion that is obvious in his songs sometimes seems at odds with his shy personality and yet somehow makes sense. His crack band of musicians propelled his acoustic-based sound, particularly the expressive pedal steel played by Eric Heywood.
Opening for Lamontagne were the Secret Sisters, a sister duo playing old-fashioned country complete with note-perfect harmonies.
Brandi Carlisle was up next and with her big, beautiful voice she seemed a perfect combination of Patsy Cline and Melissa Etheridge — rough, yet graceful. She’s a great guitar player and a good communicator with the crowd, who seemed to appreciate her laid-back attitude.
Lamontagne brought out many of his more popular songs, such as “Beg, Steal and Borrow,” a radio hit off “God Willin’,” which elicited cheers from the crowd. “Trouble,” perhaps his biggest hit, in particular was a crowd favorite.
“Between the atmosphere and the people here, things are going so well in Bangor,” said Zach Pike of Orono. “And it’s so fantastic to have Maine people appreciate Maine talent.”
Up next in the Waterfront Concert series is a special performance by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra featuring Beatles tribute band Yesterday, set for Saturday, June 4. For information, visit waterfrontconcerts.com.