A co-headlining concert such as this one deserves a co-headlining article, if I do say so myself. A show with such premier performers and of such epic proportions doesn’t need much of an introduction; let’s just say— Ray & Gray killed it.
Sir Ray Lamontagne and our beloved David Gray came together on Sunday night in Council Bluffs, Iowa at the Harrah’s Casino Stir Cove. It was a perfectly gorgeous night and a beautiful way to end off the summer. The sun beating down with a brisk breeze kept the fan base energized for the duration of the evening, but it was the salty-passionate vocals from Ray Lamontagne that had everyone in awe. Music like this sounds like it was painted with a dandelion brush on silk parchment. The crowd could feel the passion under the setting sun, set to a masterful soundtrack.
Ray Lamontagne’s most recent album release God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise, has most recently debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and #2 on the Digital Album charts, making this a tie for Lamontagne’s previous album Gossip in the Grain, which also deputed at #3. The success over the past four albums of Ray’s career grants him the right to be called future classic in the world of modern folk.
David Gray at this point is practically a household name. The English singer-songwriter’s brilliant vocals traveled throughout department stores with his breakthrough hit “Babylon,” reminding us Gray has been touching our insides since the ’90s.
These two artists have been reckless at affecting our souls and hearts with their catchy and at times heart-wrenching songs long enough that they deserve a sold-out crowd in every venue they perform and their sincerity and talent has bought them just that.
Lamontagne opened the show with his band Pariah Dogs. Opening with two songs from the new album, God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise: “Repo Man” and “New York City is Killin’ Me” answered any doubts about whether he would play new material. His set mixed of old and new material and fans were gracious and appreciative of Lamontagne’s gigantic, salty, folk-vocals and the bands preciously-arranged folk instrumentals. He closed his set with a crowd request, and my personal favorite, “Jolene.” For a moment you could see Ray peer up from behind his brimmed hat at the sky behind the crowd; the sun was going down behind us in the horizon, and for if only a slight hour this hot sea of strangers turns into lovers. This is the closest we get to God, I thought.
David Gray came on in his well-tailored suit, backed by his delightful band. We can almost compare Gray with a fine wine- he and his music only get better with time, proven this past Sunday night as he played with compassion and charisma. Opening with his most recent radio favorite, “Fugitive,” they didn’t leave out any of the favorites or singles. Gray played all the crowd pleasers with fervor, including “Sail Away,” “This Year’s Love,” “Be Mine,” “Please Forgive Me,” “The Other Side” and of course “Babylon”. There was even a marriage proposal in the front row during the middle of his set, and she said “Yes!”
It seemed there was no clear ‘winner’ in this co-headlining dance, Gray & Ray were just that- together. And everyone was satisfied; the buzzing after the concert couldn’t have been more pleased with their late Sunday evening choice to come out to Harrah’s Stir Cove to witness two of our era’s most adored artists.