Words by Lauren Byrnes
On Sunday night, Albany’s Palace Theatre was given a real treat: The Belle Brigade opening for Ray LaMontagne. LaMontagne’s new album, Supernova, was produced by The Black Keys’s Dan Auerbach and promised a new sound from the singer/songwriter.
The opening act, The Belle Brigade, was a traditional four piece rock band with a brother and sister duo at its heart. Barbara and Ethan Gruska play the drums and guitar, respectively, and both do the vocals for the band. Their set at the Palace ran about 45 minutes and was excellent. Their sound was reminiscent of the pop rock sound that predominated in the 1990s without ever truly giving in to it. They have been touring with Ray for the past 6-7 months and were even part of his band during the singer/songwriter’s set.
Ray came on about half an hour after The Belle Brigade had finished to an eager crowd. The sound was different from his earlier works as Mr. Auerbach’s influence was well evident from the first song on. Four out of the first five songs came from the new album where the new rock influences were heavy. The first song, “Lavender”, had an incredible trippy feel to it. The use of the synth/keyboard contributed heavily to this. The four acoustic songs toward the end of his set were a nice call back to his days with The Pariah Dogs and much appreciated by the crowd. Throughout the performance, the lighting for him was very reminiscent of the old Joshua Light Shows from the Fillmore East and West of the 60’s and 70’s. LaMontagne’s lighting is usually subdued to fit his folksy background, but with this new direction, the lighting fit perfectly along the vein of his musical supernova.
Overall, the combination of the two bands was unmatched in compatibility. The pop rock sound of The Bell Brigade matched with the folk and newfound psychedelic sound of Ray LaMontagne made for a truly magical evening of music.