Concert Review: David Gray

Years ago I fell in love with this Volkswagon commercial, partly because I had just bought a silver cabrio but mostly because I loved the song Pink Moon by Nick Drake.  I was listening to it one day at work when a coworker (British born Jon Wilson) heard it and said “If you like Nick Drake, you should check out David Gray.”  I did and immediately fell in love.  White Ladder had just been released and I soaked it up and binged on everything else he had available.  He became one of my favorite artists, somehow balancing melancholy with a sense of hope.  I was ecstatic when I heard he was coming to Charlotte, though I did wonder if anyone would show up.  Even though he has been around forever, he is not a traditional commercial success and when I said I was excited he was coming, I got a resounding “Who?” from everyone I told.

So I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were at the Uptown Arena for his show.  He just released a new album, Mutineers, so I wasn’t that surprised that the first few songs were unfamiliar.  I liked them, especially the opening song Back in the World, but was much happier once he started playing the songs I loved like Sail Away , Kangaroo and The Other Side.  I have seen a lot of live shows but this was one of the only shows where I thought he sounded crisper and clearer than his recordings.  I am especially glad I was able to see the live version of my absolute favorite song of his, This Year’s Love.  I am not sure if it is where I am in life, or what I have gone through personally over the past few years, but listening to him sing the beautiful words brought tears to my eyes.  I felt the song in a way I had never experienced just listening on my ipod.  Seeing it live made the song real, something more than just a pretty melody and great words. Somehow I was on stage with him, sitting next to him on his piano stool, singing along…”When you hold me like you do, it feels so right I start to forget how my heart gets torn, when that hurt gets thrown, feeling like you can’t go on….cos it takes something more this time than sweet sweet lies….every dream inside my soul…..This year’s love had better last.  So whose to worry if our hearts get torn, when that hurt gets thrown, don’t you know this life goes on.”

I mentioned melancholy hope already, but I think that is how I feel about his music and seeing him perform it live brought out the hope even stronger, while making the melancholy seem deeper, sadder, but recoverable. During My Oh My, I thought, OH MY GOD THAT IS ME as I sang along “What on earth is going on in my head, You know I used to be so sure, You know I used to be so definite, Thought I knew what love was for. I look around these days and I’m not so sure. It takes a lotta love these days to keep your heart from freezing.”  But the next song, Please Forgive Me also felt just as accurate saying “there’s so much I want to say Want to tell you just how good it feels when you look at me that way.”

Not only was his voice clear and beautiful and haunting, his personality was cute and endearing.  The concert was on a Friday in August in Charlotte and it was warm and humid.  He came out wearing a sport coat and a few songs in commented that it was hot.  A few songs later he said something to the effect of “everyone said not to wear a coat.  You’ll be too hot they said.  But I couldn’t come out under dressed.”  He had such a relaxed, fun presence on stage and it made the concert all the better.

I was a fan before the show, but now I am a passionate fan, feeling so much more connected to him as an artist and to the songs and expressions of my feelings. I am impressed and in love with his talent, his voice, his musicality and the way he writes feelings so well.  I know that sounds like a exaggeration, but it really was that good.

Buy his stuff.

See his show.

Support this wonderful artist.