At the first of two shows, Welsh singer-songwriter David Gray emphasized his forte — describing the first rush of new love, one buoyed by high tides, riding the rapids to the waterfall or any of the other bodies of water that invariably make up the landscapes of his songs. It takes an hour and 15 minutes (of the nearly two-hour show) before even a slightly discouraging word is heard, from the new “Destroyer.” Even his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Long Black Veil” is less a spooky murder ballad than an almost boastful narrative of love that lasts beyond death.
Drawn mostly from his recent “Greatest Hits” collection (ATO Records), Gray’s songs have been, he says, “very good to me” and are wellsprings of good feelings. He wants to “take you down to the place where we can shine,” he sings in the evening’s opening song and ends the evening reminding his beloved that if he gets lost, they will meet “on the other side.” In between, his ingratiating voice, as warming and burnished as a good cognac, tells one new lover “you’re all the world to me” and another that “all the dreams I held in my heart suddenly came true” when he first saw her.
Although the emotions may be somewhat constrained, the music is varied enough to keep things interesting, from the fluttery folk of “Babylon” to the droning stomp of “Hospital Food” and the Beatlesque guitar that introduces the chorus of the Van Morrison-influenced “The One I Love.” He acknowledges his debt to Morrison by dropping bits of Morrison’s songs into his own tunes — a coda of “Into the Mystic” into “Flame Turns Blue” and a few lines of “Slim Slow Slider” onto the end of the epic “Nightblindness.”
Opener Joshua James’ well-received set showcased a young Midwestern singer-songwriter who writes hard-bitten songs of family tragedies and sings them in a voice that’s as sun-bleached and wind-battered as a Nebraska cornfield.