Old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll entertainment: a leader with a guitar; bass, drums and keyboards behind him; a sense of urgency to the elocution; unobtrusive lights; and an engaging satchel of songs. Sadly, as out of vogue as that is, David Gray has stuck to his guns and resurfaced on these shores with a potent album (year-end top 10, anyone?) and an impressive stage show. Gray simply stands and delivers.
“Sail Away” opened the 75-minute show, which leaned heavily on his new material; just a handful of tunes from Gray’s mid-’90s albums on EMI and Virgin were thrown in.
Gray’s a Manchester native who grew up in Wales, and his voice and music have no regional ties. He draws on folk-rock and ambient grooves, sings painfully desolate love songs and, in the case of “Nightblindness,” slips in the slow part of the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”; his voice is of the winsome, high-and-lonesome variety — a sweetened taste of John Prine.
Gray’s “White Ladder” disc has made a fantastic end-run. A self-financed release in Ireland last year, it was picked up by Dave Matthews’ label ATO and distribbed domestically by BMG. Six months after the deal was inked, Gray’s tune “Babylon” has spent three weeks atop radio’s Adult Album Alternative chart, and his captivating “Sail Away” is headed for the Robert De Niro-Edward Burns pic “15 Minutes.”
Gray’s material is so sturdy, it enchanted the full house simply through melody and lyric –remarkable testimony to the quality of his songwriting in this age of manufactured pop and showy theatrics.
Real World/Virgin artist Joseph Arthur opened the evening with a short set of material from his “Come to Where I’m From” album.
Someday, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher is going to make a solo album, and Arthur’s fans will be able to say, “We heard it here first.”