David Gray

By Poppy Tohill

Artist:  David Gray

Date / Venue:  Thursday April 9th, ASB Theatre, Auckland

I certainly felt slightly out of place, being one of the few under 40, even under 30 year olds who turned up to see David Gray perform at Auckland's ASB Theatreon Thursday night. "His hits are older than you!" I got in response as I subtly let out that I wasn't exactly what you'd call familiar with Gray's music, or him for that fact.

But nonetheless, it proved an enjoyable night out and one that was seemingly enjoyed by many long time David Gray fans, who left the show at the end of the night, anything but disappointed.

The show started off with what remained an all time highlight for me, as Gray began the evening with the enchanting and striking emotional ballad ‘Birds Of The High Arctic' from his most recent album ‘Mutineers.'The sweetly soft intro and first few minutes of the tune saw Gray play the piano, beautifully accompanied by cellist Caroline Dale. While Dale produced a range of exquisite bird like sounds from her instrument, which continued to echo throughout the remainder of the song, the song building in momentum soon saw Gray leave the piano to belt out the two final verses of the tune, before once again making his way back to the keyboard to conclude the song with the same soft and harmonious melody it had begun with.

Slowly picking up the pace with his latest single ‘Back In The World,' Gray's band of seven, consisting of bassistRob Malone, drummer Keith Prior, keyboard player Tim Bradshaw, backing vocalist Niamh Farrell and two guitarists, David Kitt and John Smith, made their way to the stage to join in with the dancing, clapping and singing that was coming from both the audience and Gray himself.

While I soon figured out a common theme with Gray's songs, that being the majority of them begin delicate, sweet and melodic, before slowly building up to a climax, which see's Gray and band let their energy levels soar, ahead of bringing the tune back down to its melodious beginnings, there were certainly a number of stand out songs and performances throughout the night, not only musically but also visually.

One of these being the emotionally remarkable ‘Beautiful Agony,' another track off Gray's latest album. The lighting was stunning and simply perfect, as the dimly lit stage soon sparkled with the whirling of fluro, glow in the dark ‘whirly tubes,' those of which Gray's band swung around above their heads throughout what was a great performance.

Album title track Mutineers was slightly less spectacular in the lighting department, or more-so, over-spectacular, as numerous intensely bright spotlights whizzed around the room, in a furring speed which I think was possibly slightly too chaotic for the rocky track. However, the excitement levels hit new heights when Gray pulled out a harmonica for an impressive solo, backed by his band who also let rip on their specific instruments.

Continuing to showcase his musical skills, ‘Last Summer' saw Gray displaying his ukulele playing talents, before bringing his run of new songs to an end with the soothing echo, of ‘Gulls.'

Attempting to take us back to the late 90s with the energetic and uplifting ‘My Oh My' from his 1998 album‘White Ladder,' Gray had well and truly warmed up to the stage and audience by now, setting aside his guitar halfway throughout the performance to show off his somewhat amusing and impressive dance moves.

The touch of slide guitar throughout ‘Sail Away,' another ‘White Ladder' track made the entirety of the song, as Gray continued on to play ‘Kathleen' and ‘Fugitive,' two slightly newer songs from his 2009 album ‘Draw The Line.' Both of which the drums and dancing audience were the highlight throughout.

‘The Other Side' however, was undoubtedly a crowd favourite that saw not only the volume levels of Gray and band increase, but the energy and enthusiasm levels of both Gray, the band members and those in the audience sky rocket through the roof as the venue soon echoed with the voices and claps of the surrounding David Gray admirers. That of which there was a few, backed up by the odd woman excitedly screeching, "You're hot David!" to which he cleverly replied, "Yeah, it is pretty hot up here."

"This song just popped into my head so I have to sing it," Gray announced, as his band departed the stage, diverting from his set list to perform an excellent rendition of Bruce Springsteen's ‘Mansion On The Hill,'accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar.

"Jesus Christ!" Gray beckoned after attempting to play ‘You're The World To Me.'  "Enter at your own peril, this song says," Gray announced, laughing off the mistake. Followed by a quick re-start, he was underway once more, becoming lost in the music as he happily informed everyone, "I made it!" followed by a sigh of relief as the song came to an end.

With the band now returning on stage, they wasted no time launching into ‘Snow Leopard,' one of the favourites of the night, that I admittedly enjoyed thoroughly.

‘The One I Love,' was undeniably a favourite amongst the crowd also, as its beginning heard a shriek from numerous fans, followed by a rush of those excited, to the front of the stage with their dancing shoes on and rearing to go. With those who didn't join in with the dancing, remaining at their seats and adding to the atmosphere and rhythm with their cheerful clapping along.

The last two songs of the night (pre encore) ‘Silver Lining' and ‘Please Forgive Me' continued and built on the audience's energetic enthusiasm, as Gray urged even more of the crowd to get involved, enticing them with a great big, cheerful, "Come on Auckland!"

Of course the chance of an encore proved fairly obvious, as Gray departed from the stage for a mere few minutes, before the entire audience were on their feet, stomping, clapping, whistling, shouting and demanding an encore.

With a stunning solo performance of ‘Babylon,' Gray's band returned on stage to finish things off with what must have been at least a ten minute version of ‘Nemesis.'

All in all, despite David Gray personally not being my absolute ‘cup of tea,' as you could say. It's clear he's a talented performer, who loves doing just that and he has a great deal of adoring fans, he most certainly does deserve - those in Auckland atthe show, being more than thrilled with the performance they received from the man himself, I'm sure.