A few years ago—OK, the date was October 17, 2014*—we saw David Gray in concert at the Touhill Center in St. Louis. He was touring in support of his album Mutineers, which had been released earlier that year.
Personally, I hadn’t taken to Mutineers right away. It was a somewhat unusual David Gray album, in that it featured a lot more vocal harmonies than we’d seen on his previous albums. Beautiful harmonies, to be sure—you could almost call them choral—but it was a big change from a guy who, when he started out, was essentially a solo folk artist, just a guy and an acoustic guitar.
Not only was the music markedly different from what I’d come to expect from Gray, but I had serious doubts about whether his band would be able to pull off the complex harmonies in a concert setting. Still, though, we got tickets, because he always puts on a good show.
Well, that night, “good show” was an understatement. By the time the band was halfway through its first song, “Birds of the High Arctic,” it was clear that they had the vocals down, and it was going to work after all. Over the course of the next couple of hours, the eight-or nine-piece band brought the Mutineers songs to life, harmonies and all.
The concert was a euphoric experience for me, and I count it among the best concerts I’ve seen in my life.
Check out this video from a concert a month or so earlier on the same tour:
Nearly five years have passed since then, and finally, this spring, Gray released the follow-up album to Mutineers. I couldn’t wait to hear it.
But, like I was in 2014, I was initially somewhat disappointed by the new record, called Gold in a Brass Age. A couple of the songs were immediately accessible, but many of the rest, seemed, at least at first, to have too much of a feeling of experimentation for experimentation’s sake.
But, after the 2014 experience, I definitely wanted to catch his concert tour in support of the record, hoping that seeing the songs performed live would bring them, well, alive, like the Mutineers songs. He didn’t book St. Louis this time around, but we got tickets for his show at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Ky.
I’ll have to say though, that when it came to the new songs, the concert stage didn’t elevate them the same way the way it did the last time. As he did before, he grouped the new stuff together at the beginning, about seven or eight Gold in a Brass Age songs in a row, before moving on to some of his older hits. The new songs were interesting enough, and certainly well performed, but, for me anyway, they just didn’t take off the way I’d hoped. Not enough to move Gold in a Brass Age into my list of top five David Gray albums.
And unfortunately, although he sampled from a lot of his previous albums during the show—in particular, the breakthrough White Ladder album from 1998—he didn’t play any songs from Mutineers. I know he’s played Mutineers songs elsewhere on this tour, but just not that night. Oh well.
Don’t get me wrong, though; the show was completely fun and enjoyable, and a perfect dessert for what was really a fun weekend exploring Louisville. He said in a post-concert Facebook “tour diary” video that he was feeling a little under the weather that night, but you sure wouldn’t have known it from his performance on stage.
Anyway, I’ll look forward to seeing what his next album will sound like, both recorded and on stage. Hopefully it won’t be another five-year wait.
* If you know me, you know I’m a little fastidious about dates sometimes.