David Gray at the State Theatre, 2/28/11
February 28, 2011
State Theatre, Minneapolis
The State Theater is one of the best venues to view this type of concert. David Gray and his full band revel the type of sound that can only be heard at large well-directed, capacity. Every aspect of the sound surrounding his performance is meticulously arranged.
The stage set-up resembled that of a close family member's living room, complete with an enormous black grand piano in the corner; the piano was so immense I think there have been countries invaded that were smaller than it. It sort of felt as if you were sitting in your grandmother's great-room, watching David Gray wail away on that faithful piano that's been there for years. Randomly strewn around the stage were lamps providing that ever-comfortable tungsten light.
With a revolving band consisting of at times seven members, Gray's act is no immature venture. He's been doing this long enough that he knows how to make it not only visibly pleasing, but it's quite clear he's got his 'shit together.' Lest not forget the lights; the stage was illuminated by Gray's coveted blue-lit backdrop, with minimal amounts of fog pouring in at the foot of the stage. (It's no question what his favorite color is -- the word 'blue' makes it into every song he sings.) It's obvious Gray puts an effort into making his audience feel comfortable, sheltered, and warm. Which is a very appreciated aspect, since it was Monday night and I'm sure the crowd was as tired as I was after a long day at work.
Sitting upon the plush seats at the theater, the audience was silent when necessary, and rowdy when provoked by Gray. He seemed to have a comedic, story-telling character about him this night, which I can say from experience isn't his normal disposition. He went on with his stories, gently making the crowd laugh in between almost every song.
Coming in on "The One I Love," Gray never held back. His voice sounded as large as the ceilings that stretched high above, and his band had every note cramped in their fingers, allowing nothing to break the silence amongst the crowd. Romantic and intimate, Gray continued with a song that has never been recorded for an album, "Fixative," which he told us was written for a dear friend of his. Proceeding to lift the rhythm higher, he performed "Holding On" directly afterwards. Then with the first chords of "Kathleen" played, the crowd broke out in applause; as obvious a hauntingly, beautiful fan-favorite.
One thing is for sure -- when you're David Gray, and you've been performing for long over a decade, and you tour as often as he does, it's impertinent that one fully enjoys playing the songs you've produced live. Proven from the blissfully imposed disposition, the band carried on as if it's the first time they'd performed, and with just as much energy and light emitting from the stage as there was being projected from the crowd.
Gray took center stage for an endeavor of "Fugitive," completely stripped down, sped-up and changed around completely. It was clear this is what he was talking about in his interview with Gimme Noise when he said he has to frequently liven up and change songs to keep them awake, which he sure did. After playing his 'wake-up' song, he brought everyone back down for a soft, yet emptying song. He sat down at the piano, solo on stage, and said, "This is a real delicate little bloom called 'Forgetting.'" The song left the audience either in tears or with their jaws to the floor, something Gray definitely has the power to do with songs like these.
"We Could Fall in Love Again" had the whole band out on stage yet again, stirring up the audience before resting us all back down with an acoustic/solo performance of one his favorites, "Blue." He then took the stage for his last song before the encore, sitting down with his guitar and only a few other band members on stage. He strummed the intro into "Babylon" for a rough three minutes, all the while telling the story of the song's success and joking about its redundant requests over and over again. This was most obviously the crowd pleaser, and had everyone up out of their seats.
For the encore he brought out three of the best, "This Year's Love," "Sail Away," and "Nemesis," which seemed to go on forever as it awoke the crowd and left them off for the last impression of David Gray.
Personal Bias: This was my third time seeing David Gray in concert in less than 24 months. I previously drove the 6 hours to Council Bluffs, IA just this past summer to see him perform. I'm burnt out from David Gray. But still have a lasting love/hate relationship with him.
The Crowd: Older Folks, the kind that were around and paying attention in 1998 when David Gray made his big debut (NPR type listeners).
Overheard in the crowd: "WHAT YOU GOT GRAY!?"
Random Notebook Dump: He plays, and plays, and plays, and never stops playing. Unfortunately I missed Ms. Lisa O'Neill's opening performance, but I hear she was quite the perfect mix for gearing the audience up for the grand night ahead of them.
For more photos: See our full slideshow, including crowd shots, by Tony Nelson.
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