David Gray – ASB Theatre April 9, 2015

It may not have been the funkiest show to come through Auckland recently, or the most rocking, but I’d have to say that David Gray’s performance at the ASB Theatre was certainly one of the most beautiful.

The lights came down at the ASB at 8:53 and David Gray took the stage along with his 7-piece band.

“There’ll be no alarms and no surprises”, announced Gray confidently, referring to his early exit last night in Wellington when an errant smoke alarm forced him off stage during his final song of the night.

The evening began with a healthy chuck off Gray’s latest album, Mutineers and there was nothing wrong with that, as it is his strongest effort in years.

Up first was Birds Of The High Arctic with cellist Caroline Dale coaxing birdlike sounds from her instrument. Gray himself was at the piano, although as the song built to a climax he stood, clutching his microphone passionately delivering the song, before returning to the keyboard for the song’s finale.

The song proved to be a template for the evening…beautifully presented with emotional and musical peaks and valleys.

The rest of the band consisted of bassist Rob Malone, who also took up a guitar every once and a while, drummer Keith Prior, keyboard player Tim Bradshaw, backing vocalist Niamh Farrell and two guitarists, David Kitt and John Smith, both of whom took turns at the piano, when Gray played acoustic guitar, as did Dale and Farrell at various times.

The versatile and well-rehearsed band provided perfect support for Gray’s songs, holding back when needed and bursting with unbridled passion when the song inspired it.

Kudos also to the lighting design…it was simple but tasteful with shafts of coloured light dancing over the musicians.

The run of new songs finished with an impassioned performance of Mutineers followed by Last Summer, featuring Gray on ukulele and then a stunning Gulls. Then it was back into the catalogue, beginning with My Oh My, from White Ladder. The audience responded with clapping and singing along.

There were cheers with the first notes of Sail Away, which included a piercing slide guitar solo.

They was a bit of between-song banter, with David recounting a story about whale watching during a previous NZ visit, but the focus was clearly on the music, with Gray wisely ignoring annoying calls from some members of the audience who felt they needed to shout out inane comments between songs.

The band left the stage for a solo performance of Bruce Sprinsteen’s Mansion On The Hill, with Gray accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and turning in one of his best performances of the evening.

Gray then sat at his piano and attempted to play You’re The World To Me, and, after a false start on the keyboard, delivered the tune, shouting, “I made it!” after finishing the song.

The band eventually returned and Gray wrapped up the set with The One I Love, Silver Lining and Please Forgive Me, urging the crowd to get involved. And after a “C’mon, Auckland!”, a crowd formed at the stage dancing along to the music. Finally, Niamh took over at the piano while David jumped and cavorted at the front of the stage.

Things were more reserved for the encore with a solo performance of Babylon and, with the band back in place, an extended Nemesis.

After well over two hours it was time to leave…this time on his own terms, with no alarms clearing the building, just the good vibes generated by an evening filled with beautifully presented music.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Veronica McLaughlin:

David Gray set list:

  1. Birds Of The High Arctic
  2. Back In The World
  3. Beautiful Agony
  4. Cake And Eat It
  5. Mutineers
  6. Last Summer
  7. Gulls
  8. My Oh My
  9. Sail Away
  10. Kathleen
  11. Fugitive
  12. The Other Side
  13. Mansion On The Hill
  14. You’re The World To Me
  15. Snow In Vegas
  16. This Year’s Love
  17. The One I Love
  18. Silver Lining
  19. Please Forgive Me
  20. Babylon
  21. Nemesis