Gig Review by Ryan Beardsley with Photography by Cath Dupuy

You know how an album can define an era of your life?

In my case most of this is attributed to the music my parents pumped into my ears during car journeys to and from primary school, I still can’t listen to Automatic For The People without harking back to that window seat in my mum’s old Fiat Punto.


Speaking of which, I doubt there are many people of my generation who won’t find a copy of David Gray’s mind-bogglingly successful White Ladder sitting in the CD rack in the family home. Looking back I can remember many an occasion of cracking open the stereo in countless houses and seeing White Ladder staring up at me, where it was at the time swiftly replaced by the new Limp Bizkit album (we’ve come a long way baby).

So when the opportunity arose to take a stroll down to the Royal Festival Hall and see the man himself, I jumped at the chance, his music has held a special place on my retro iPod as something of a guilty pleasure for years, now it was time to face the music.



It’s a packed auditorium, filled with people of all ages as David and his band take to the stage. My first thought being; ‘Jesus, this guy hasn’t aged in about twenty years?’ I mean seriously, he literally looks exactly the same as he did back when he was on TOTP singing Babylon, 50 years old the man does not look.

The band kick off by playing the majority of new album, Gold In A Brass Age. An interesting move as many in the audience would have been expecting one of his better-known tracks to kick start the evening. Having said that, I’m pleasantly surprised by what I hear, particularly the title track and Watching The Waves. Whilst not reinventing the wheel, there is definitely something new to be heard here with some inventive harmonies on display and a sense of pushing the boundaries a little bit.



However, most of the people here are clearly in attendance for the big numbers and as the first section of the show winds down, it’s time for the hits with Sail Away and My Oh My from White Ladder getting a great reception, it’s clear that although he has been singing these songs for almost 20 years now, he is still putting his all into each performance, which must be respected.

I actually forgot in my own ignorance that Gray actually has some great tracks not exclusive to his White Ladder; Be Mine and The One I Love are both great singles in their own right, the former an amusing take sitting within the Country music genre and the latter a classic acoustic ballad, a sub-genre David Gray seemed to make his own for a while back in the early 2000s.



Gray is jovial, warm and self-deprecating throughout, not letting a mistake or two get in the way of a great atmosphere. I was sitting pretty close to the stage of course, but it felt almost as though his band had popped round to my house for tea to play a mammoth set, and I mean that in a non-intrusive, positive manner of course…

A slight change of pace comes next as we wind down as the singer takes to the piano for Snow In Vegas and Life In Slow Motion and suddenly the Royal Festival Hall feels even more intimate and Gray’s voice sounds as resilient as I’ve ever heard it, the man just does not age I guess.



The band have set us up for a hell of a finish as the familiar tones of Babylon get the crowd up out of their seats for a mass sing/wave along that is impossible not to join in with. So what if I don’t look cool? Frankly I’m probably too old to care anymore so there!

After spying the 4 song encore written on the setlist from my close proximity to the stage, I’m disappointed to hear that we’ve gone on too long and it will just be two last songs, but he saves the best til last the cheeky monkey.



This Years Love gets the old hairs on the back of the neck leaping to attendance for all those in attendance and then Please Forgive Me is as catchy as ever, wrapping the evening up nicely, followed by a richly deserved standing ovation. I swear at one point up in the balcony, one of his biggest fans was almost conducting the audience in their applause, hell if he’s connecting to his fan base on that level, who are we to scoff?

All I can say is, I just hope I look as good as David Gray in 20 years.



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