David Gray has been a favourite of the Irish public since the early nineties. Long before his native England recognised his talents Gray made his bread here in Ireland before he went on to butter it worldwide following the release of the juggernaut that was White Ladder. We took him as one of our own, kind of like the musical equivalent of Daniel Day-Lewis.
This month Gray has been trekking around some of the country’s more intimate venues on his first solo acoustic tour since 1995. Wednesday evening was the third and final show of a run at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, there was a real sense of event in the building with the likes of RTE’s Ray Darcy and peers like Mundy and David Kitt in attendance.
Opening his set with an a cappella version of ‘One Fine Morning’ with just handclaps and trademark bobbly head as accompaniment Gray immediately captures the rooms attention. It’s a signal of intent, the pinnacle of intimacy, blowing off any early nerves with a raw, naked, powerful performance. From then off he moves from piano to several different guitars throughout the set; in the absence of a full band the intricacy of the craft in his song writing is acutely evident. Various tunings and loop pedals are manipulated on many songs as he creates mini symphonies. All of which is firmly anchored by his rich, soulful voice.
The opening chords of songs like ‘Late Night Radio’, ‘The One I Love’, ‘Please Forgive Me’ and ‘Be Mine’ are met with applause from the appreciative crowd, a kind of ‘Thanks for writing that one almost 20 years ago’ doffing of the cap. The odd shout for ‘Babylon’ can be heard but is dutifully ignored, it’s a weapon he leaves until the tail end of the show. There are two encores at the end of the night, each time he leaves the stage to a standing ovation.
Seeing a songwriter like Gray in such a personal setting highlights just how masterful he is at his craft. Every song performed with tempestuous verve, heartfelt, emotive and delicate all at once. With just a guitar and a piano for company on stage there is nowhere to hide. Every song is subject to a microscopic glare and each and every one stands up boldly.
Gray will be 50 on his next birthday but doesn’t look much older than he did in the ’90s, it makes you wonder if his middle name is Dorian. He performs with the assured confidence of a man who’s earned the right to lay bare the fruits of his last 20 years’ labour. Grabbed from the very start the crowd remain in the palm of his hand for the entire evening. An excellent show from a performer who’ll go down as one of the great song writers.
Recordings of each show were available to fans on the night and can also be purchased here.