Live Review: Macy Gray – 4th July 2017 – Shepherds Bush Empire, London
When towering RnB-meets-pop vocalist Macy Gray first came to the worlds attention back in 1999, her distinctively gravelly vocals were met with some initial apprehension from the mainstream pop landscape. It was when the singer released her biggest hit to date, the number one international smash I Try that her career skyrocketed and Gray became one of the most successful female artists of the time.
The record that spawned I Try – On How Life Is – threw out a plethora of single successes including Why Didn’t You Call Me and Still and remains one of the finest releases of the nineties. While her future records never hit the same peaks as her breakthrough debut, Gray continues to record and tour the globe, offering a nostalgic trip down memory lane for her fans, and in the process, pulling in new fans through releases such as Big, the enormously underrated The Sellout and latest rerecorded hits collection, Stripped, for which the star is currently on the road promoting. Last night was a stop at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire and we went along to see the singer reveal her re-imagining of some of her classics for a welcoming crowd of fans.
Given her success leans heavily on her On How Life Is debut, Gray was very indulgent when it came to playing songs from the 3 million+ selling record. Arriving almost a half hour late, her four piece band – all sharply dressed in grey and white checkered suits – provided an introduction for the musician to grace the stage momentarily with a brief section of A Moment To Myself before leaving the stage to a little confusion from the audience. Dressed in a flowing satin yellow leopard print dress, black finger-less lace gloves and a blindingly sparkly and weighty diamond necklace, Gray returned to a thunderous applause and then traveled through some of her biggest hit singles including Why Didn’t You Call Me and the quick delivered Do Something; both performed as sublimely as the original recordings.
Gray was very attentive to her fans throughout the duration of last nights performance; often talking directly to members of the audience and frequently encouraging everyone to get up on their feet and let lose. She was insistent that she get to know her audience, proclaiming at one point, “we came to see you too” before introducing herself and then having the entire crowd shout out their names at the same time so that she knew exactly show she was performing to. This was one of many moments that Gray unraveled herself from the superstar status that celebrities wrap themselves in and instead came across as a peoples performer from the first note to the closing chorus.
As her hits drenched her set, a handful of covers made there way between tracks like the reggae rich She Ain’t Right For You and The Sellout’s Beauty In The World which was given a full soulful face-lift for the show. The musicians closing encore rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way fell a little flat on the crowd but her performance of Radiohead’s Creep was mind-blowing, to say the least. Every person in the crowd seemed to be in awe of her performance of the track and for good reason. Her raspy vocals wrapped around the iconic hits haunting melody with conviction and pitch-perfect precision as she turned out the best cover of Creep that we have ever heard.
The show was as much about showcasing the singers back catalogue as it was to show off the re-imagined and often eccentric new style of that catalogue. Her latest record has raided the treasure chest of hits from the Macy Gray vaults and given each a soulful makeover and the performance of those songs shone in their new form last night at the Shepherds Bush Empire – especially her number one hit I Try. The single nestled into the closing of the evenings performance and was helped along by a crowd who, at this point of the show, were all up on their feet and had crowded the front ground level seating area to belt out the chorus for the singer who offered those opportunities to fans periodically during her 90 minutes of stage. A truly memorable performance by a truly unique and talented artist.