David Gray shines brightly at the Orpheum

A review of David Gray at the Orpheum Theatre on December 5, 2007

, Contributing Writer

Who is David Gray? The man has never tried his hand at acting, has no nude photographs circulating the internet, has no famous romantic history with an A-list celebrity. Americans rarely see him on morning talk shows or late night talk shows. The general public knows little about him, yet he\’s been frequenting radio airwaves for over a decade, and Wednesday\’s show at the Orpheum did little to clear up any mystique around him. Riding on the heels of the release of the David Gray: Greatest Hits compilation, Gray was all business as he took the stage. The lucky ones who snagged tickets to the sold out show at the cozy theater were treated to a rare show – an intimate evening with enough power to handle the Garden.

For all of the emotion contained in his lyrics, Gray is a man of few words. That turned out to be a plus, since less talking between songs meant more time during songs. Gray started out right away with one of the only live tracks off the Hits album, "Shine". A simplistic yet powerful guitar ballad, it blew away his fans. The first three songs of his set were his only solo acoustic songs, as he did "Shine", "As I\’m Leaving", and his hit "Babylon" with little more than guitar accompaniment. Gray\’s choice to do "Babylon" stripped down was a good one, as it seemed as though he wanted the crowd to truly listen to and feel the words in their purest form (For a fantastic version with the whole band, check out his track on the 2002 Grammy Nominees compilation).

Two new bandmates took the stage, and between Gray\’s entirely black outfit and the band\’s sprightly cover of "Long Black Veil" (popularized by late country superstar Johnny Cash), Cash would have been proud. The band took a slow turn with "As I\’m Leaving" and "Flame Turns Blue", both from Lost Songs 95-98, and the more recent release "From Here You Can Almost See the Sea", which Gray has said "is one of the best things I\’ve ever written by a mile, lyrically."

The night saw Gray pulling out material from the depths of his repertoire dating back over fifteen years, and at this particular point he segued seamlessly into his band act. Clad in identical gray suits with black ties that complemented Gray\’s blacks, they presented a casual uniformity while bringing more of Gray\’s hits to life.

Beginning with "Sail Away" the backdrop lit the dark Orpheum with caliginous blue light, and provided the same during "Tell Me Something (Hospital Food)", with Gray\’s powerful voice ringing through the theatre. After dedicating his next song to "anyone who\’s ever been alive" he launched into a dynamic version of "Slow Motion". Even though he was having piano issues and had to downgrade to what the Orpheum had to give him, his delivery made each and every person in the audience feel as though he was singing just to them. A long version of "Nightblindness" followed, with a hazy, starry backdrop and mid-song piano solo as Gray almost lost himself in the song, repeating "Where were you when I needed you…" over and over again. It had a fiery ending as Gray sang to the point of yelling in anguish.

"Destroyer" was next, a little-known tune featured on Greatest Hits. The piano and drum heavy song was short and sweet and put the audience in a fun mood. As a childlike grin took over Gray\’s face, he yelled in delight and started right in on another of his biggest hits, "The One I Love". At this point, those who had been giving him standing ovations after every song couldn\’t just sit there, so the seats cleared and the aisles were filled with dancing. The balance between switching songs from White Ladder, Life in Slow Motion, Greatest Hits, and more worked well for both the band and the crowd on this cold winter night.

& The crowd\’s bliss at just being there with Gray was present, as he received standing ovations after nearly every song. The ambiance of dimly lit stars and lights in the background added to the excited yet relaxed tone of the show, and the audience gladly sang along to everything. After ending with "The Other Side", Gray came back quickly for the two-song encore of "This Year\’s Love", and closer "Please Forgive Me". "Love", one of the most heartfelt piano love ballads around, thrilled the couples in attendance even though most couldn\’t quite keep up with singing along when prompted by Gray. No worries though, since judging by the huge smile on his face Gray found it amusing.

Gray is a man of his music, and his eagerness to deliver his art with few frills kept an appreciative audience in delight. Fortunately, he is slated to have another album released in 2008, so for those who could not make it to this show or any of the other four shows he had scheduled in the States this December, news of another tour could be coming soon and people will get their chance to see an incredible live show that pulls out all the right stops.

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