David Gray insists on his latest single that he’s ‘back in the world’, and after a phenomenal homecoming at the Lowry theatre on Thursday, I’m glad to report he certainly is.
When Gray wheeled out his ‘Greatest Hits’ tour at Preston’s Guild Hall in 2008, after parting company with his label and long term collaborator Clune, there was a sense of going through the motions; of an artist still recuperating from a decade of being defined by his global hit White Ladder and for being blamed for unleashing on the world a host of electro-infused folk-pop singers a’la Newton Faulkner, Jack Johnson, James Blunt, et al.
But six years on, with a great new album, his tenth, in tow, the singer-songwriter looks back to his wobbly-headed best.
So confident he is, it seems, in his new album Mutineers, which has seen him experiment with more electro-trickery with Andy Barlow from 90s trip hop outfit Lamb, that the first five songs come from the new album - despite it only being released days earlier.
To kick things off, Gray led his seven-piece band through a rousing Birds of the High Arctic, which grew from a piano ballad to a stirring, looping sing-along ending with Gray jumping up from behind his piano to dance around the stage like a possessed Al Jolsen speaking in tongues at some wild evangelical church sermon.
Next he unleashed his catchy new single, Back in the World, followed by three more new songs, including the beautifully tender Last Summer, punctuated with a gorgeous extended chello outro.
It wasn’t until the sixth song Alibi, from 2005’s Life In Slow Motion, that he deviated from the new album and not until Please Forgive Me, nine songs in, that the place was given a full-on singalong.
A few more songs from the new album followed before delving into the back catalogue for the inevitable Babylon, which must feel like both an albatross and a golden goose for the singer by now, before closing the set with a thunderous, electric One I Love.
A three song encore ending with a joyous Sail Away sing song.
But as good as it was to hear the old songs, it was the new ones that really soared.
Maybe Gray has finally been able to reconcile the highs and lows of his earlier successes, the preconceptions and the expectations. Either way, it’s good to have you back.