“You go to Eureka? I’m so sorry.”
Ricky Montgomery, brandishing a crocheted mushroom man thrown to him by a gaggle of Eureka students in the crowd, smiles into the mic.
At age 14, Ricky Montgomery began his music career “in the suburban basements of West St. Louis”, while enrolled in Eureka High School. Later in his career, he founded the band “The Honeysticks” and released several songs on Vine, leading to his debut with the EP “Caught on the Moon”.
However, Montgomery’s career took off in 2020 after “Mr. Loverman” and “Line without a Hook”, from his 2016 studio album “Montgomery Ricky”, became famous on TikTok. From there, he signed with Warner Records, and this May of 2022, came to St. Louis to play at a packed Delmar Hall for the first time.
For the opener, Lyn Lapid began with a heartbreaking rendition of “When She Loved Me” (Sarah McLachlan). Alongside bassist Kayla and drummer Tyler Nam, Lyn Lapid sang hits like “My Little Island”, “Slow Dancing in The Dark” (Joji), and “In My Mind”. Lapid vocalized to the instruments with sky-high notes, stepping around animatedly in her white boots and leg warmers. In an energetic finale, Lapid split the room to shout either “Your toxicity” or “Wasn’t it for me” for the chorus of “Pager”.
But as 8 PM hits, fans within the crowd grip each other and shriek. Even on a Thursday night, the crowds are thick and excited. As the lights flash, Montgomery runs out to a screaming crowd and launches into “Talk To You” and “Cabo”. Audience members stretch their hands towards the stage and scream the chorus of “Line Without a Hook”, and in response, Ricky Montgomery lifts a microphone to the wall of voices.
Montgomery takes quick breaks between some songs: taking off his red jacket, chatting with the audience, and showing gifts thrown to him on stage with a couple of stray “Behold”s. Later, he reveals that although his dream was to play at the Pageant, he did manage to play next door. Frequent quips like “You guys like music? Awesome, that’s so convenient.” and shoutouts to Mary, Nancy, the bass player from his high school band, and his family, keep the mood intimate and cozy.
Next was “Get Used to It”, which featured duo guitar playing with Kyle Moore and drummer David Cola who just recovered from Covid. In “Out Like a Light”, Montgomery belts out the chorus with heavenly reverb, thrashing his head as waves of pulsating phone flashlights follow him from the audience. To the left of the stage, a security guard moves his head along with the music. With a skitter on the guitar and a small hoarse cry, he ends the song.
Later, in his song “Sorry for Me”, Montgomery changes “California” to “St. Louis”, and concert-goers go wild. Shredding the guitar, Montgomery melts into the stage across from Moore, blonde hair askew in the red light.
Midway through, someone throws a pride flag on stage, and with cheers, Montgomery unravels the flag to its full length, stretching his arms and letting the flag bounce. Leaning into the mic, he states, “Abortion is a human right”. For a few seconds, you can hear nothing but claps and shouts punctuated by drum hits by Cola.
Other highlights include songs from Montgomery Ricky like “My Heart’s Buried in Venice”, “California”, and “Snow”, as well as songs from the Honeysticks like “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, and “Get To You”.
With a cover of “The Sweater Song (Undone)”(Weezer), the crowd goes feral– not quite becoming a moshpit, but reasonably close. With the use of a voice modifier, Montgomery whips his head under strobing red lasers, pausing with the beat drops, and taking small dance breaks with each one. It’s almost breakdancing, but again– not quite.
In a raucous encore, Montgomery ends with “This December” and “Mr. Loverman”. He attempts to throw out paper airplanes with the setlist on them, but to little success– the airplanes merely fly towards the roof, then descend violently.
Overall, the concert was genuine and fun, with raw emotion exuding from everyone involved. Beyond just a recital of his repertoire, Montgomery gave a performance, an experience, and ultimately, a wonderful show that demonstrated both his vocal skill and the passion behind his lyrics.