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David Gray Live in Liverpool

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Liverpool Philharmonic. 26 March 2019

With this album, my default position was to do everything differently. I didn’t think ‘this would be a good hook or ‘these lyrics could work for a chorus’. I was keen to get away from narrative. Instead of writing melodies, I looked for phrases with a natural cadence, so that the rhythm began with the words. I re-imagined where a song might spring from and what form it could take.” - David Gray

Back in 1998/99 Glen Hansard of Ireland’s Frames, during an interview in Liverpool, strongly recommended that I cover the Liss Ard Festival in County Cork in Ireland. I eventually obtained a pass to cover this extraordinary ten-day festival which took place in tents, under trees and beside ponds, and included some of the world’s finest contemporary artists. My evenings were spent sitting around camp fires with Irish music fans. It was during these evenings that David Gray’s name was repeated many times, and that this singer/songwriter was massive in Ireland. His latest album called WHITE LADDER was hugely recommended with tracks from it bombarding Irish sound waves from the country’s finest radio stations.

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When I arrived back in the UK I sought out the album which I received and reviewed as one of the best I had heard in many years. What I could not understand was why Gray was not acknowledged by the UK media. It was almost twelve months later, after my glowing review, that the album hit the headlines eventually becoming the UK’s best selling album of the year. I ended up collecting every one of his albums which without exception were also wonderful.

The last time I witnessed a performance by Gray was in Ireland at the Witnness Festival quite a few years ago. I recently received his new album, GOLD IN A BRASS AGE, which was released after a four-year hiatus. It took several listens for me to fully appreciate its quality but I did perceive a change of direction which for me needed a live performance to fully convince. Liverpool’s wonderful Philharmonic venue, with its superb acoustic quality, provided the opportunity to re-establish my relationship with one of the UK’s finest singer/songwriters. The huge stage housed a large array of instruments signifying that Gray would be accompanied by a full band.

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At the allotted time Gray and his band silently swept onto the stage with Gray taking up position to the right of the stage in between keyboards and guitars. Eventually he settled behind the keyboard starting with the new album’s ‘Mallory’ with beautiful opening piano notes and emotional vocal - what an opening! Gray, looking fit and young, has always been a passionate performer but with age and his new work he seems to have upped a gear. ‘The Sapling’ also from the new album, exemplified this but also revealed an artist at ease, comfortable and still in love with music.

Gray continued his new album songs with ‘A Tight Ship’ which revealed an artist acting out his songs with an animated display while switching from keyboard to guitar. The sellout audience lapped it up and I’m pretty sure received a little more than they originally expected from this talented veteran. While GOLD IN A BRASS AGE received a thorough airing, Gray also went into some of the best parts of his back catalogue with tracks from WHITE LADDER especially well received and from my perspective very welcome.

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The band were magnificent with their instruments and very effective backing vocals. There was a spell when Gray performed solo which was also highly emotive and just plain beautiful. It’s early days in 2019 but I suspect neither the audience or myself will experience a better live performance night. There were many special moments with the band’s superb instrumental performance and backing vocals adding drama especially to the new album’s songs. With, arguably one of his finest recordings,  Gray is back with a vengeance and frankly puts most of the highly publicised and successful new talent in the dark shade. This was nothing less than a masterclass in song-writing, performance and the ability to emotional move and connect to an audience. It was, in a word, Unforgettable.

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My Setlist

Mallory
The Sapling
A Tight Ship
Hurricane Season
It’s Late
Gold In A Brass Age
If 8 Were 9
Sail Away
Hospital Food
Slow Motion
Last Summer
Silver Lining
Birds In The High Arctic
Last Summer
Rediculous Heart
My Oh My

Babylon

Encore:

This Years Love
Freedom
Please Forgive Me

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Other Published Setlist For The Performance

Mallory
The Sapling
A Tight Ship
Gold in a Brass Age
Hurricane Season
Hall of Mirrors
It’s Late
Ridiculous Heart
If 8 Were 9
Sail Away
Hospital Food
Slow Motion
Last Summer
My Oh My
Shine
Falling Free
The One I Love
Be Mine
Silver Lining
Babylon

Encore:

This Year’s Love
Freedom
Please Forgive Me

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