The Emmanuel Centre in London is a great place for an artist to stage a comeback. David Gray’s guerrilla London show was sold out, and for good reason. David Gray has been around for over 20 years, performing and releasing solid folk rock albums since 1993. After a brief absence from the limelight, it seems the man is doing his best to make his way back into the public eye.
The audience who gathered at the Emmanuel Centre were precisely what you’d expect at a David Gray show – average age 29, even split men and women (mostly couples canoodling in the pews). The sold out venue was an intimate space with excellent acoustics. The natural acoustics are one of the upsides of performing in a church; the downside is the uncomfortable pews. Luckily for Gray, the audience seemed too enraptured in his music to mind the uncomfortable seats.
Gray tried his best to keep the songs distinct from one another by alternating between piano and guitar as his main instrument. Despite the effort, some songs bled too much into one another. Gray often introduced each song with a rather long preamble, a description of his inspiration or the explanation behind a song’s name. While the information gave lovely insight into Gray’s process, the introductions ate up a good deal of time, and detracted from the ephemeral mystery that folk music can bring.
That said, his well-known numbers were met with enthusiasm. ‘Sail Away’, ‘Babylon’, and ‘Please Forgive Me’ became group efforts, with Gray urging the audience to sing along – not that any urging was needed. There was magic in those moments, the audience softly whispering along, the collective voice growing in power until overwhelming Gray’s own amplified voice.
Technically, the lighting designers made the most of a minimal space, but over-reached themselves in trying to project images on the domed church ceiling. The images were fuzzy and distracting, slightly detracting from the beauty of the music on stage. Yet, Gray and his large ensemble of backing musicians were in solid form and delivered a well-rounded, albeit slightly long, pseudo-folk-show.
What one can glean from his performance at the Emmanuel Centre, David Gray is poising himself for a comeback. As folk music becomes a marketable genre, with bands like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes becoming house hold names, Gray seems poised at the perfect time. Let’s hope the generation gap isn’t too great.
Final Verdict? 7/10