Gray does things differently, again
Boch Schubert Theatre, Boston, November 17, 2016
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
By Jeffrey B. Remz
David Gray couldn't be convinced of doing the same old same old. In the past, he has toured with his regular backing band. He later returned to the States for an acoustic tour.
Now on the heels of releasing a greatest hits package last month, Gray was back in the U.S. and Canada for an ultra-short seven-date tour pretty much solo. It's just Gray on acoustic guitar or piano over the course of two sets, pushing songs from throughout his two-decade career.
Gray began the night - opening night of the tour actually - with his second single ever, "Shine," to good effect in a lengthy 100-minute opening set that shied away from the hits. About the best-known song was "The Other Side." As usual, it was a keeper.
The fact of the matter was that Gray didn't need to rely on tried-and-true material. The new CD featured two new songs with Gray serving up one in each set. Both worked with his older material, though neither "Enter Lightly" nor "Smoke Without Fire" had hit written all over it.
What made Gray an outstanding singer/songwriter was his delivery. He's a superb singer with big-sounding tenor that almost always takes command of the material. He infused the material with emotion, attitude and ownership whether fast, mid-tempo or a ballad.
And going solo only emphasized the quality of his singing. The songs tended to resonate more so when he sat down at the ivories, sometimes adding an emotion with the music itself.
Perhaps keeping it simple also enabled Gray to interact with the crowd, telling the story behind several songs. While there may have been an ever present intensity to his songs, he eased up with his banter.
Ending the first set with a strong take on "Nemesis," Gray returned for a second set that was more hit laden with songs such as "Babylon," the still sharp sounding "Sail Away and "The One I Love" before closing out the generous night with "This Year's Love."
The "pretty much" solo effort was aided during the second set a bit by George "Clune" McClune, who has been with Gray for a decade. He helped out a bit on backing vocals and percussion. While Clune may have added a dose of spice, this was really Gray's night.
Different isn't always better, and it may not necessarily be for Gray. That's no criticism. The evening was a window into another side of Gray. Ultimately, there's a lot to be said for doing things differently.