He often waved his arms like a crazed preacher, and we all clapped and sang along like a faithful congregation.
Paramount Theatre, Denver
First there was the duo of bird-themed songs. Then there was a microphone malfunction at the keyboard, leading David Gray to jump up and improvise, wooing the audience with the opening stanza of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” while his seven-piece band jumped right in.
And yes, I said seven, although between them we were treated to more than just seven instruments: We had vocals, guitar, bass, cello, piano, harmonica, banjo, upright bass, tambourine, ukulele, shaker… (I’m sure there were more; it was hard to keep track.) At one point, seven voices rose in harmony—breathtaking.
But then, the whole show was breathtaking, surely one of the more awe-inspiring productions I’ve seen, not just recently, but ever. So many times, the stage exploded in a wall of sound and light and energy, enrapturing us all, and then receded suddenly, with us pulled close.
The lights were amazing: bathing, cascading; sparkling like stars, stretching like sunbursts; colors and lots of white, white, white. It was awe-inspiring and soothing, uplifting and life affirming, all at the same time. Although we were over 1,500 strong, we audience members gracefully became one as we partook of this performance, in the truest sense of the word. It was theatrical, religious: a form of worship.
Gray dismissed the band for a mid-set, solo, acoustic version of his biggest hit, “Babylon.” Toward the end, he smiled and said, “This is the quietest version of Babylon. I think I need your help with a verse.” The crowd obliged, singing the refrain twice before delivering a standing ovation (neither the first nor the last of the night).
Live, it was apparent how textured and complex Gray’s songs are, yet on record, they come across so simply. “This belongs to a family of songs that takes me somewhere else completely,” Gray shared with us before the haunting “The Incredible.” For the last song of the main set, “Please Forgive Me,” the crowd—many of whom had previously been dancing in their seats—jumped to their feet, clapping and singing, and turning the Paramount Theatre into a downright dance hall.
Along with everyone else in attendance, I could barely tear my eyes from Gray. He’s so gawky and awkward, enraptured and perfect and alive. He often waved his arms like a crazed preacher, and we all clapped and sang along like a faithful congregation, taken by the spirit. It was a magical, magical night, one my memories will always encourage me to relive. Brilliant. | Laura Hamlett