Dublin, 7th Dec 2014
I first saw David Gray perform this time last year in the Roisin Dubh in Galway, an intimate but rowdy venue. Gray was back in Ireland to test out material from his new album, Mutineers. It was a great gig, which saw a slightly nervous Gray reconfirm his place in the heart of Irish fans. When I saw that he was playing again a lot closer to home, I bought tickets straight away.
The Bord Gais Energy Theatre is a much bigger venue but still maintains a degree of intimacy that is required for some of the more subdued material from the new album. The show was opened by David Kitt who I’m not a huge fan of; his performance was lukewarm at best. There was a lack of atmosphere due to a lot of empty seats which in Kitt’s defence was probably not the best setting. The highlight for me was a cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry, which Kitt put a unique twist on. His voice is strong and sure but there wasn’t much distinction between the songs he performed. He finished up but appeared again shortly after as part of the supporting band for the main event.
David Gray and his band arrived onstage to thunderous applause and lots of catcalls. His affection for Ireland and Dublin in particular was clear; he made references to his long ago gigs in Whelan’s and the Mean Fiddler (now The Village). The first half of the show was solely dedicated to material from his tenth studio album, Mutineers. Highlights included Birds of the High Arctic, Cake and Eat It and lead single, Back in the World. Some of the songs are haunting, low key and understated. They require the listener to stick with them as they build to a crescendo where Gray’s distinct voice soars. Caroline Dale was fantastic on the cello, which leant itself perfectly to the sometimes melancholy sounds of this album.
The crowd was mixed for this gig. It seemed to be mostly comprised of fans of Gray’s 90’s/early 2000’s material such as White Ladder and Life in Slow Motion. This was made evident by the regular heckling from the crowd demanding that Gray “play some of the old school stuff” which became increasingly irritating. (Am I the only one who thinks hecklers should be swiftly removed from gigs?) Gray handled it well and didn’t engage with the obnoxious shouts but did grant their wish and go back in time to play some of his old classics.
This is when the show really came alive for me. I’m a fan of Gray’s newer material but it doesn’t compare to soaring tracks such as This Year’s Love, Sail Away and Shine. The highlight of the show was an extended version of Please Forgive Me that saw the entire crowd on their feet, cheering and singing along in unison. The atmosphere was electric and Gray was clearly enjoying himself as he ran around the stage ‘conducting’ the band, soaked in sweat.
What began as a rather muted gig in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre ended with an encore of the timeless Babylon, which Gray performed alone on stage with nothing but his guitar. David Gray will never have a problem selling out shows in Ireland because his distinctive voice, boundless energy and endless talent ensure that the audience are in for a treat every time. Looking forward to having him back again soon.