His comments about “the Christmas party” being in every time someone in the audience hollered their affection were delivered with warmth and only mock eye-rolling, yet there was something about listening to saccharine troubadour David Gray deliver a set on Black Friday which created a strange atmosphere. His understated concert hall acoustic show was mellow bordering on tranquil, and yet individuals in the sit-down audience felt the need to try out their most impassioned karaoke during entire songs.
David Gray ***
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Still, Gray dealt with it like an old pro. To the wider public, the Cheshire-raised singer broke big with his hit-heavy fourth album White Ladder in 1999 and then coasted towards relative obscurity; yet it’s worth noting – especially with all three tiers of the Usher Hall packed for his visit – that only one of his seven albums between White Ladder and 2014’s Mutineers charted outside the UK top ten, and all went top twenty in the US. The 48-year-old everybloke looked rumpled in dark denim jeans and jacket, yet he’s still a substantial box office draw.
On this evidence, he’s also a performer of some skill and emotional ability. He was on stage alone, but it sounded as though a full band was in attendance at times, with Gray playing wistful acoustic guitar and delicate grand piano, and the effects box at his feet looping his music and voice into multi-tracked backing arrangements.
Over nearly three hours, tender, simple ballads and songs of bittersweet hopefulness like Last Summer, Lately and the stripped-back Please Forgive Me were spun out into comforting extended mantras, and hits including Babylon and This Year’s Love struck a warm chord with the boisterous crowd.