David Gray at The Sage Gateshead
A Solo Acoustic Evening with David Gray
There was much excitement when David Gray announced details of his first UK tour in over two years. I really felt my age when I realised this new tour and album comes a quarter of a century after Gray’s recording career originally began! Like many, I know him from when he captured the world’s attention with his breakout multi-platinum hit album White Ladder back in 1998. This acoustic tour entitled “An Evening with David Gray“ came to the Sage Gateshead on Saturday 17th December. Here at Nights Out In Newcastle we were lucky enough to get given press tickets to see his performance and we were not definitely not disappointed.
The Sage Gateshead is an international home for music and musical discovery, known for it’s world class acoustics. David performed at Sage One, their largest auditorium offering a stunning backdrop for any large scale event. The combination of a solo acoustic performance of such a well seasoned musical veteran as David Gray and the amazing setting and acoustics of Sage One was a recipe for a great gig.
We arrived at the Sage to find the performance had been pushed back half an hour, so we got ourselves some drinks at the bar and grabbed some seats. There was a really excited vibe amongst the crowds gathering, a combination of the festive seasons celebration and his fans excitement at seeing him perform. It was a real mix of people, from all across the country, with those nostalgic for his late 90s hits, hardcore fans known as “Grayheads” and curious Christmas revellers.
We entered Sage One and grabbed our seats, there was an excited rumbling from the crowd, getting louder and louder as the auditorium began to fill, eventually leaving not a spare seat in sight. On stage his piano and guitar stood centre stage dimly lit. It is hard not to get blown away by the Sage Gateshead as it really is a visually stunning venue.
As expectations rose the lights went down and David came onto stage. The crowd really went crazy and it was clear to see there were some die hard “Grayheads” in the audience. David casually introduced himself and said a few words about how he could not believe it was quarter of a century since he first began his music career. He was at ease and you could tell it was going to be a very intimate and stripped back acoustic performance with just him, his piano and guitar in the very centre of the stage.
He kicked the evening off with his guitar and a performance of Lead Me Upstairs from his first album A Century Ends. The crowd was instantly thrown into silence as his voice reverberated around Sage One. The sound quality was amazing and really lent itself to this style of music, with every note and little variation being heard. The lighting helped a lot too, with some stunning yet simple effects all perfectly timed to bring the most out of the performance.
He wowed the crowds with hit after hit on his acoustic guitar, getting them singing and swaying along. The comfortable confidence of his performance was plain to see, you could tell this was a lives work coming to fruition with truly stunning vocals and guitar. His clever use of loop pedals meant he would play a beautiful acoustic chorus then put on repeat, then building it up with more licks or quietly whispered words until the tune was in full flow and rifting intricate meandering guitar solos or vocal tricks. I had not really expected that to be honest and was blown away by how good it was. This also meant he could drop the guitar at times and get the crowd going clapping along before belting out some powerful harmonies with the background tune. This bit of the gig was a great surprise and even though I was not familiar with all of the songs I enjoyed every minute. One of my favourites was Only the Wine from his album Foundling. The live acoustic version was very different to the original and was a real folk classic in the making, with the crowd stomping and clapping along. Back in the World was another great one, getting the audience really into it, with some of the bravest (or drunkest) trying to match David on his high vibrato notes with varied results!
With the gig in full flow he took to the piano, much to everyones delight. He belted out a host of his well known classics with The Other Side stunning the crowd to silence just before the interlude.
After a short drinks and toilet break we headed back into the auditorium and sat for a couple of minutes. The house lights darkened a deep drone swept across the concert and the silhouettes of David emerged on stage again, with a quick jacket change that did not go unnoticed by the fans as one women shouted “Nice jacket Dave!” and others wolf whistled. He laughed and joined in with the crowd before kicking it off with the acoustic guitar again. David proved he is human after all when he had a little trouble with one of his loop and echo pedals during the intro. He stopped, swore at it before creasing up, laughing at it all with the crowd. This was a feature of the gig, with the intimate and informal nature of doing such a retrospective acoustic performance. It made it much more enjoyable with David sharing a joke or two, talking briefly about how he came to write certain songs and funny anecdotes on gigs gone wrong.
The second half was just hit after hit, with a range of classic tunes that everyone would recognise, many with interesting acoustic versions that made them like hearing them for the first time. He moved between guitar, piano and singing effortlessly, again using loop pedals to give the illusion of a whole band at times. Sail Away was the second song out and got the whole crowd singing along, it was really something to see.
Please Forgive Me was one such song, with a very different acoustic twist that worked really well, with a dramatic lighting to give a majestic feel. The way he re-worked some tunes was mind-blowing. It goes to show how accomplished, comfortable and in touch with his fans he is. With such a strong and recognisable playlist he was not afraid to mix it up or freestyle. As the evening drew to a close he saved the big hitters till last getting the crowd off their feet and singing unashamedly at full belt.
As he finished off I felt particularly sorry for the two ladies next to me who has sang along all gig only to leave without realising there was an encore! First up was the beautiful This Year’s Love which really got the audience going. I don’t know if it was the booze or the song but it had a bizarre effect on the man in front of me, moving to tears, which while touching was hard to take seriously with his truly awful Christmas jumper complete with flashing lights!
As the crowd sang along there was a triumphant feel about the gig, a completely perfectly judged musical journey that you can only get from a well seasoned performer.
Then to end was the very apt finally Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.
“An Evening with David Gray” delivered an intimate acoustic show with a living, breathing collection of music, every bit as dynamic and vital as the 25 year long career that David Gray has enjoyed so far. The display of musical talent during this night was amazing and I couldn’t fault the performance at all. Sage One is an amazing room and really did serve its purpose for the concert especially during the slower songs the natural echo and reverbs were beautiful to hear.
I would definitely recommend going to see “An Evening with David Gray” as it was an outstanding show.
For more information on tour dates, the best of David Gray and his music click here.
For more information on coming up soon at the Sage Gateshead click here.