David Gray's Vancouver show big, warm, and fuzzy
At Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Thursday, May 13
The world can be broken into two different kinds of concertgoers: there are those who love two-hour-long, dry, pensive, sit-down shows. And then there are those of us who like to drink, socialize, stretch our legs, and eat a chocolate bar without getting dirty looks from pruned hags because the wrapper is making too much noise.
For the most part, David Gray fans fall into the former category. So with that in mind, what a show! You guys definitely got your money’s worth at the first of two back-to-back Gray concerts at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Me? I left thinking sometimes less is more. Ninety minutes would have sufficed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the British crossover folkie just as much as the next adult-contemporary easy listener. After all, the man does have an amazing voice, one that’s arguably as distinct as some of the all-time greats. (Think Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, or Willie Nelson.) But he does suffer a little bit from same-same syndrome when it comes to his songwriting. And this is especially true live. Every intro sounded like the beginning of “Sail Away”. But nope, it was just another B-side filler/treat for the hard-core fans. How does the expression go again? “Fool me once, David Gray, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” So I let it go and resigned myself to the fact that he was saving the big kahuna till the very end.
In terms of his stage presence, the G-man has definitely loosened up quite a bit since he crossed the pond to promote his ’98 DIY breakthrough album, White Ladder. Looking sharp in a dapper suit, he busted out his signature move: a bobblehead/over-caffeinated toe-tapping combo. He also regaled us with jokes about his recent whale-watching excursion. But not all of his banter was a salute to awe-inspiring wildlife. At one point, the married-with-children singer-songwriter seemed to be suggesting that he may be having some problems at home. He warned all the cooing lovebirds in attendance who might be considering “getting married or some shit” that tying the knot is a very binding contract. “There’s a lot of fine print I just never appreciated,” he said before nonchalantly launching into another love song. Coming from a man who’s basically made a career from penning soul-mate songs, it was a little disheartening.
That said, the simple northern-star backlighting, the multitalented accompanying band, and, of course, Gray’s voice made for a lot of really special, mesmerizing moments, like “Please Forgive Me” and “This Year’s Love”—both beautiful songs that one never tires of. He really did get it right with White Ladder.
It’s just too bad he waited a good hour and a half before rocking out a bit and encouraging the crowd to stand up. It would have been nice to get the ol’ blood flowing a little earlier than that. But hey, when he unleashed “Sail Away” as the very last song of the night, all was forgiven. We were just one big warm-and-fuzzy swaying crowd. I even forgave the pruned hag for giving me the stink eye over a chocolate bar. Now if that’s not the mark of a powerful performance, I don’t know what is.