David Gray, Royal Albert Hall, gig review: ‘It’s good to have him back’

Gray 'soars like the proverbial bird'

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The Independent Culture

So many established musicians chicken out of playing new material that it’s refreshing to catch David Gray front-loading his two-hour set with seven songs from the sublime Mutineers, his tenth studio album.

He starts off at the piano with “Gulls”, building from a minimalist motif and mantras intoned by his seven-piece band, until he soars like the proverbial bird. You don’t mind when he repeats the same trick with “The Incredible”, worthy of Van Morrison in his Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart pomp.

Gray grew up on the Pembrokeshire coast and is much given to avian metaphors with “As The Crow Flies” reflecting the personal and sonic quest he embarked on with producer/programmer Andy Barlow of trip-hop duo Lamb, whose brief was to take him out his comfort zone, facilitating a mutiny against the singer-songwriter genre he helped reinvent with White Ladder 15 years ago.

The chamber ensemble ambience of “Last Summer” and the pointillist touches of “A Girl Like You” place Mutineers in a tradition reaching back to Erik Satie, and taking in Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden and The Blue Nile. Gray never tries the patience of his audience who listens intently even if he nervously jokes about  “the good stuff” to come.

Indeed, the banging “Please Forgive Me” turns the venue into something of a rave, while “Babylon” and “This Year’s Love” rekindle many a memory. It’s good to have him “Back In The World”.

David Gray is on tour until 9 July