Review: David Gray at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, April 20th, 2019
Despite having been on the scene for over 25 years now, David Gray has only managed to find his way out to Australia a handful of times since his first visit in 2003.
While his tour dates have been increasingly more frequent in recent years, his presence on Aussie shores is more than enough for local fans to eagerly embrace the chance to see this English musical icon in the flesh.
With his 11th album, Gold In A Brass Age, being released last month, David Gray has found himself in the country this April as one of the many special guests appearing at the 30th anniversary of Bluesfest.
Performing at Melbourne’s picturesque Palais Theatre, hordes of fans filed into this famed venue on Saturday night for a stunning sold-out appearance from David Gray.
Check out David Gray’s ‘The Sapling’:
As excited fans chatted about what the evening’s setlist might feature, they were soon met with a group of musicians on the stage, with Ward Thomas arriving as part of their debut Aussie tour to deliver the opening performance of the night.
Fronted by Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, the twin sisters were backed by two Aussie musicians, who dutifully accompanied them for a seven-song set that drew from their most recent albums, including February’s Restless Minds.
Kicking things off with ‘Carry You Home’, it was clear that we were witnessing a set that could very well have served as a headline performance, with the sisters harmonising their soaring vocals, delivering emotive lyrics in their arresting country-pop style.
Backed by intricate guitarwork and swirling piano melodies, Ward Thomas ran through a number of well-received tracks, including the likes of ‘Changing’, ‘No Filter’, and ‘Cartwheels’, the latter of which saw the pair appearing as a stripped-back duo.
With lyrics soaked in nostalgic imagery, and vocals that gripped up at every turn, the group closed out their set with the fitting ‘One More Goodbye’, undoubtedly winning over some new fans, and leaving their audience hoping for a return visit sometime in the near future.
Check out Ward Thomas’ ‘Cartwheels’:
Following a brief intermission, the lights in the venue slowly lowered once again, before a number of figures soon cut through the dim glow to take their positions. Leading the charge was the friendly face of the English music legend David Gray, whose friendly waved signified the start of something wonderful.
Greeting us with his trademark wit, cheers supported Gray’s celebration of the long weekend, only for him to tell us he was now done with “the jolly part of the set”, as he dipped into songs from his latest record to kick off proceedings.
As Gray’s trio of musicians began an atmospheric drone, red lights flooded the backdrop, with featured an illuminated image relating to the song’s lyrics. Diving into ‘Mallory’, Gray’s iconic voice instantly cut through the music to deliver those emotive lyrics.
As the track continued, so did David Gray’s intensity, with his passion appearing to double with every other word. This immersive, powerful display had everyone in the theatre hooked, refusing to let us go as we all collectively wondered how the rest of the set could compare to the majesty of this opening song.
As the conclusion of the track was met with applause, Gray was met with cheers and personal messages of love from the audience. However, he wasn’t one to keep us waiting, instantly dipping into a mighty rendition of ‘The Sapling’.
Continuing his block of new material, David Gray’s decision to kick things off with solely new material was undoubtedly a popular one, allowing fans to effectively get through the required task of hearing the new stuff before they can get to the classics.
However, while new material is sometimes overlooked by fans, each and every song had everyone’s full attention, as Gray’s looped guitar, piano excursions, switching of instruments, and occasional breaks to cut some shapes from time to time had everyone mesmerised, fearful to look away lest we miss a second of his brilliance.
Check out David Gray’s ‘If 8 Were 9’:
After a seven-song block of tunes from Gold In A Brass Age, David Gray took us back to his 1998 breakthrough White Ladder, being met with riotous applause as he dipped into tracks like ‘Sail Away’, and newer classics like ‘Be Mine’, and ‘Kathleen’.
Of course, it was obvious where the hearts of his fans lay, as singalongs, cheering, and smiling faces were abound during the set of ‘hits’, and Gray knew this, playing to his audience, and dishing up all the classics we know and love.
After sending his band backstage for a three-song solo set that included ‘Snow in Vegas’, ‘As I’m Leaving’, and a powerful rendition of ‘Flame Turns Blue’, Gray figured it was time to up the ante, heading to the end of his main set with a far more upbeat set of tunes.
Kicking things up a notch for ‘The One I Love’, fans could have been forgiven for thinking we were witnessing a rock band in action, as pounding drums, resonating chords, and hearty vocals shook us to our core.
Continuing this tradition with 2005’s ‘Hospital Food’, Gray then wrapped up his set with a communal version of ‘Please Forgive Me’, helping turn the tune into something far bigger than its original recorded version, and undoubtedly serving as one of the night’s biggest moments.
Check out David Gray’s ‘Please Forgive Me’:
After a few moments out of our sights, David Gray returned to the stage as per tradition to polish off the evening with a two-song encore of his most iconic tunes.
Kicking things off with ‘This Year’s Love’, the heartfelt ballad soon attracted the voices of hundreds, with Gray enlisting the audience to help turn this tune into something of a cathartic anthem.
However, it was the evening’s final track, ‘Babylon’, that undoubtedly served as the perfect way to cap things off, with Gray’s most famous song resulting in widespread dancing in our seats, singalongs, and clear jubilation from everyone in attendance.
As a heartfelt wave from Gray sent us off, it was clear that the evening’s audience had just witnessed something truly special.
With a set that encompassed the vast majority of his career (bar his early albums), there was something for everyone in this eclectic, diverse selection of songs, and the two-hour performance left us feeling as though he gave more than his all.
Boasting a reputation as a best-selling artist whose lyrical and compositional skills far exceed him, David Gray’s final headlining show of his Aussie tour undoubtedly proves that he is one of the finest artists going around today.
With a penchant of putting on an electrifying live show, and for performing with levels of dedication and determination not seen by most artists, Gray is certainly one artist whose live shows are not only enjoyable, but have the ability to make your life richer for having witnessed them.
Check out David Gray’s ‘Babylon’:
David Gray Australian Tour 2019
Monday, April 22nd, 2019
Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, Byron Bay, NSW
David Gray @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 20/4/19 Setlist
‘Gold In A Brass Age’
‘Hall Of Mirrors’
‘A Tight Ship’
‘If 8 Were 9’
‘My Oh My’
‘Birds Of The High Arctic’
‘Snow In Vegas’
‘As I’m Leaving’
‘Flame Turns Blue’
‘The One I Love’
‘Please Forgive Me’
‘This Year’s Love’
Ward Thomas @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 20/4/19 Setlist
‘Carry You Home’
‘It’s Not Just Me’
‘Little Girl Sorrow’
‘One More Goodbye’