It’s been nearly 20 years since David Gray smashed into the UK charts with his superb ‘White Ladder’ album, yet there are still huge numbers of eager revelers who yearn to see him live. Indeed, the Manchester singer performed to an excitable Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on Saturday evening. My personal relationship with David Gray’s music is a nostalgic one. ‘White Ladder’ is an album I first remember vaguely hearing in my early childhood and it’s an album which has stuck with me growing up. It’s an album that I’ve divulged on through break ups, periods of stress and anxiety as well as those evenings when you just need to hear some relaxing music.
It would be unfair however to define Gray by that one album. While most casual listeners will mostly know songs such as “Babylon” and “This Year’s Love” from that album, he has offered so much more throughout his career ranging from his early days which centred around folk music to even appearing on albums with electronic act Orbital. Indeed, Gray kicked off the evening’s proceedings with some songs from his new album ‘Gold in a Brass Age’; his first material for nearly five years. A personal highlight from that bunch of songs included “Mallory” which involved intricate instrumentation and deep intensity.
While Gray appeared apologetic for playing those songs early on, the crowd responding with rousing applause. By the time his sensational vocals thundered into “Sail Away”, the mood was already jubilant. Gray also told hilarious stories of his childhood which involved a move from Manchester to Solva, a small town on the western Welsh coast which had a distinct lack of love interests. He performs with an air of comfort and self-confidence which never threatens to turn into self-indulgence. Other highlights included “My Oh My”, “Silver Lining” and “The Other Side” and included a combination of stunning keyboard solos and skillful acoustic guitar playing including the now synonymous pedal loops.
To conclude the evening, Gray played some of his favourites including “Babylon”. It was a dream come true to see this song performed live, one of the integral songs of my childhood and adolescence and one that I still utterly adore to this day. Further into the encore, “This Year’s Love” and “Please Forgive Me”, another fantastic tune, finished the evening off in the style. As David Gray walked from the stage to a standing ovation, the crowd knew they’d witnessed one of the finest musicians of his generation still at his performing peak. A great evening of music.