The State Theatre was the most fitting of venues to house this avant-garde genius. David Gray’s minimalistic vibe seemed contradictory as he had an eight-piece band, but it was easy to see why he’d chosen the members, each of them moving between classical instruments with skills as broad as the years lived between them. He alluded to their musical repertoire’s getting them their jobs by declaring “hard times in the music business right now.”
As he played My Oh My, the beginning of the song was narrated with bellows of improvisational theatre. Gray seemed to ascend upwards, soul-shaking sounds, flying spit and sweat backlit making it look like a musical exorcism.
A back-up singer danced like Elaine from Seinfeld, adding another nonsensical dimension to the “theatre rehearsal” vibe, yet no one seemed to notice, as they weren’t listening with their eyes.
It was obvious the White Ladder classics were what everyone had come to hear, as when a mix of tracks off his new album was played, the energy lowered. Completely aware of this he layered the classics with his instinctive, natural vigour, bringing something new to something old.
After a few funny anecdotes from “life on the road”, Gray hunched over his piano and like an eccentric, morbid Count Dracula bobbed his head and roared out The Other Side.
The crowd was encouraged to get up and dance, the back-up singer’s dance moves spreading to the theatre’s floor as hundreds of people sporadically kicked one leg whilst doing the thumbs-up.
Sail Away broke the jovial energy and had a room full of closed eyes and hands on hearts. Gray’s performance, with nuanced transitions, that piercing range and notable sound, reeked of longing and heartbreak.