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Live Review: David Gray – Monday 6th June 2011 – Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

5 min read

With a myriad of international chart topping releases firmly under his belt including his mesmerising fourth studio album release White Ladder it’s no wonder singer/songwriter David Gray has the worlds music loving audience nestled comfortably in the palm of his hands. The career defining 1998 release secured the musician with some of the most awe-inspiring tracks of the past twenty years that include Sail Away, This Years Love and Babylon.

With nine studio albums full of goose-bump inducing numbers to choose from, Gray has become somewhat of a traveling musician over the years, making his way around the globe showcasing his craft that he so easily has turned into a musical art form. Each of his records tells a different story and has seen Gray evolve into one of the most iconic globally successful musicians. Not bad for a lad from Cheshire.

Gray released his latest record, Foundling, back in August of last year to generally mixed reviews. The double album was the follow up to 2009’s Draw the Line and his ninth record to date. Since the release of the album which Gray has described as being a ‘private record’ he has been living the hectic life of a traveling artist promoting the new collection throughout the States. With the multi-talented musician touching down on UK soil to promote the release, it was at the tours final date at London’s Royal Festival Hall for an extended acoustic set showcasing his latest material while throwing some old favorite in to spice things up.

With the venue packed to the brim and each of the boxes that were positioned around the hall packed with concert goers Gray took to the stage to a thunderous and welcoming applause at just shy of 20.30pm. The stage was dimly lit with a trio of lamps positioned within the set up giving the intimate evening a very warm, lounge feeling.

As Gray is promoting his latest work we were offered in large quantities songs from his more recent collections. A thumping double bass heavy structure carried Davey Jones’ Locker in unison with Gray’s coarse vocals that were complimenting within the venues airy space. With a melodically catchy guitar strum the track contained some effective Americana guitar riffs beneath the singers emotive wailing.

The atmospheric Lately was a stand out within the beginning section of the set. A song found on his 2005 Life In Slow Motion release the track was set against a striking pink backdrop while his band formed a strong support of country tinged guitar swaying while Gray traded his piano for a guitar mid song showing off his musical flexibility.

With a deep breathing noise being generated from his centre standing mic Gray commented ‘it’s the Darth Vadar tablets I’ve been taking’ which not only brought out the charming side of the usually dark vocalist but also gave the crowd a glimpse at the humorous side of Gray.

As soon as the first line of The One I Love was sung the crowd were instantly frenzied and some rose to applaud the front man while the piano led Holding On and one of White Ladder’s fan favorite, My Oh My, were both given a superb execution.

From Gray’s 2009 Draw The Line release we were offered the title track with its lyrically adamant statement “Need to take some pride baby, need to take some heart. Need to take evasive action, when the rumpus start” and the emotive Kathleen which was accompanied by his support act Lisa O’Neill and performed against a red/yellow backdrop of lights the track was described as being one of the singers favorite pennings from the album.

Fugitive showed off the singers funny side as he gave a dig at his melancholic song writing reputation by describing the track as ‘usually played with a band so the acoustic version won’t be around for long as it gives it hope’. He then followed up by saying ‘one doesn’t want to be throwing that sort of stuff around’, getting a big applause from the crowd.

His support remained on stage with him for Ain’t No Love, a sentimental piano led power ballad duet with Gray uniting both artists beautiful harmonizing skills.

Further down the set the oldies broke free. We got a striped back offering of the sublime This Years Love with Gray on piano and a double bass providing some deep fillings. Babylon came with a story about Gray’s life in Stoke-Newington and how the song, one which has since to become one of the musicians most recognizable hits, came to be. On this one the crowd was encourage to sing along and they did with enthusiasm.

Leaving the stage for a brief moment he returned with his band to perform a lengthy version of Nemesis and his worldwide signature track, Sail Away. As the rose to give the singer a standing ovation the band and their front man departed the stage.

Not only were we taken back by Gray’s ability to pen so many incredible hits that were showcased throughout the two hour set but his delivery of each of the songs was astounding. His voice though coarse and grainy was purposefully effective and faultless. His band also provided a trusty support throughout the night displaying a band with true musicianship. A perfect concert from start to end.