This past Wednesday, June 1st, folk rocker Ray LaMontagne brought his Monovision Tour to the Metropolitan Opera House of Philadelphia, where he treated fans to 9 of the 10 songs of his Monovision LP, in addition to a number of fan favorites, from the stage of our city’s most cavernous theatre. However, it was opener Sierra Ferrell’s 40-minute set that proved to be the evening’s highlight. The Nashville-based, West Virginia-bred singer songwriter – whose sound blends bluegrass, folk, and gypsy jazz – last hit up the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection just this April, when she brought her headlining tour in support of her debut album, Long Time Coming, to a nearly sold-out World Café Live for a night of full-band, honky-tonk ass-kicking at the generally reserved and refined listening room. However, for her performance at The Met, she brought a far more intimate, yet equally satisfying, vibe.
Sierra Ferrell’s 11-song set featured the singer/guitarist solo, although embodied all of the crass charm for which she has become known. She took the stage in an elegantly “country” cocktail dress and cowboy boots, proclaiming “I have to say, ya’ll have the bounciest balls I’ve experienced on tour,” and bouncing a Super Ball onstage, before going into early single “Littlebird.” The set boasted a little more than half of Long Time Coming, in addition to a handful of covers (including Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs’ “Before I Met You,” Charley Pride’s “Snakes Crawl at Night,” and Charlie Poole and The North Carolina Ramblers’ “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” before which she informed the audience, “I have a rule that when a song makes me cry, I learn it.”)
Standouts of Sierra Ferrell’s all-too-short, but impressively condensed, set included the hyper-lusty “West Virginia Waltz,” roots rocker (and equally suggestive) “Silver Dollar,” and “At the End of The Rainbow,” a poignantly bitter love letter kiss-off-turned-final-plea to an ex-lover (To be honest, the sheer volume of sexuality within her set likely matched that of Nine Inch Nails’, who played that very same stage just a week before.) However, the audience – who seemed largely unfamiliar with Ms. Ferrell, yet remained relatively attentive – seemed to be most taken with “Bells of Every Chapel,” a recent collaboration with Billy Strings, which sounds like the gospel, but Ferrell admits was actually inspired after once hearing Queen Elizabeth utter the song’s namesake in a particularly amusing manner, for which the songwriter explained: “You don’t have to be all spiritual to write every song.”