London’s Emmanuel Centre (located in the heart of Westminster) last night hosted a concert of such quality that i’m still in awe of what i witnessed this morning. With all due respect to David Gray I was not expecting a performance that would now rank among the best i’ve seen in my journalistic career. This 2 hour set, of 20+ songs, was a triumph from start to finish.
David Gray was in town to promote a new album and to play the first of three nights in the capital. The venue was the historic Emmanuel Centre and in particular its trans-denominational church. It’s glorious dome and quite stunning architecture were the perfect accompaniment to Gray’s vocal talents and that of his incredible band. Why this venue is not used more often for acoustic sessions similar to Gray’s is somewhat of a mystery. It offers an ambiance much like the Albert Hall but has a more personal feel to it. The church pews and 1920’s architecture are charming and offer an experience unlike any other in London.
The evening started with new tracks. ‘The Incredible’ was the sign of an artist who is back at the top of his game. A quite stunning song which had the audience hooked and was more importantly the marker for the rest of the evening. More new tracks followed. Each felt like old friends even though we were hearing them for the first time. The stand-out new song was ukulele assisted ‘Dun Laoighare’, a track so strong that it already has the hallmark of a classic. It received the type of applause you would have normally expected for an encore.
New tracks ‘I Want All My Cake and Eat It’ and ‘Skellig’ also impressed. The former a trademark David Gray track, full of “Yeah Yeahs” and one that tested the artists vocals to the full. The reaction to both would have been encouraging.
Vocally i can’t think of a single performance that matched this and I was also impressed at Gray’s ability to draw in members of the band to enhance vocals where needed. The entire acoustic set, with the exception of a light slip-up in ‘Babylon’, was a vocal masterclass.
Of course, in a two hour set there would be classics. ‘This Years Love’ and ‘The One i Love’ were impressive but it was ‘Nemesis’ that stole the show. Its delivery was simply staggering and it received the most impressive reception of the evening. The encore inevitably ended with ‘Babylon’ and ‘Sail Away’. Considering there was a Tube Strike in London no one appeared to be in a rush to leave, such was the expectation for these final two tracks. No one was disappointed, as both brought this perfect set to a climax.
Shamefully i have to admit that David Gray was never an artist i’d ever really followed. Sure i was aware of the hits and the alcohol fuelled video for ‘Sail Away’ but i came away from this show tonight not only with a new found respect for the man but also a love of songs that i’d simply missed. There is nothing to dislike about an artist who converses with his audience when appropriate and gives everything to his performance. Given the opportunity i’d do this every-night.