David Gray was in town last night, for a concert at the Touhill Center at UMSL. We saw him about nine years ago, on the White Ladder Tour, and I don’t think he’d been to St. Louis since then. He was great then, and even better this time.
It was my first time at the Touhill, and I loved the place. I don’t know if it’s the acoustics of the hall, or a great sound team for the band, or Gray’s diction, but the sound was just about perfect — I could understand the words a lot better than I could on his CDs. His voice was right on, the whole night, and the band — drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, backing Gray, who played guitar (mostly acoustic) and some piano — was excellent. Unfortunately, he didn’t introduce the band, but obviously they’ve been together for a while.
He played songs from each of his CDs, leaning heavily on the most recent two, Draw the Line and Life in Slow Motion, which I think might be his best. In mid-set, he took note of the “posh” surroundings of the Touhill and slowed it down a little, playing a couple of quieter songs from his earlier albums — Flame Turns Blue, Freedom, and others. Gray is equally adept at the slower songs and the rockers, and he struck just the right balance between them.
Highlights for me, in addition to the above: Ain’t No Love, a duet with his guitarist with just Gray on the piano; Babylon, which, thankfully, didn’t turn into the expected audience singalong so the band was able to perform it themselves, and we could hear every word; and Nemesis, stretched out to about 10 minutes late in the set, with trance-inducing light effects from a mirror ball at the back of the stage. The lighting was great, but it also produced my only complaint about the show — during many of the songs, they had powerful lights behind the band, shining toward the audience. The effect was all right, I guess, if you’re standing on stage looking out at the crowd. For me, particularly with my astigmatic eyes magnifying the glare, the effect looked like an interrogation technique perfected during the Bush-Cheney years. On the whole, though, the lighting was interesting but unobtrusive — the way it should be.
All in all though, it was a great set of music, exquisitely performed in an awesome setting.
Hey, while you’re thinking about David Gray, check out these cool 360-degree videos from his Web site!