David Gray at the O2 Arena
It’s not often that an album maintains popularity and stands the test of time – over 20 years, in fact, in the case of David Gray and his celebration of the record White Ladder. The artist’s fourth studio album was one of the best-selling records of the 21st century, charting in the UK Top 100 for almost three whole years. With distinctly soulful, ever-booming vocals and adoring fans to fill arenas even decades later, the singer is taking his best loved hits across the globe, including a nostalgic night at London’s O2 Arena.
It’s a tale of two halves, with the singer acting as his own warmup act and revisiting material from other albums, such as The One I Love, Be Mine and Alibi. Some of these originated from the record Life in Slow Motion, which is slightly apt as it feels like a slower start to the evening. One song begins, “Meet me on the other side” in an almost haunting, echoey rendition that the singer says feels “appropriate after all this time.” After all, this is an anniversary tour that was pushed back twice due to the pandemic.
The anticipation is answered triumphantly in the main act of the evening, a performance of the entire White Ladder track listing. After a short interval, Gray bursts back onto stage in a white suit with brighter, more vivid lighting and vocals, starting with an energetic Please Forgive Me. It’s followed by Babylon, easily one of his most recognisable hits that has the audience up on their feet instantaneously, with the cosy finishing touch of an acoustic encore and mass singalong. Unsurprisingly, This Year’s Love is another crowd favourite, decorated with thousands of phone lights alongside the poignant Sail Away. There’s also a more surprising highlight of David Bowie covers – from one iconic David to the next – as well as an unexpected collaboration with Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, notably the original singer of Gray’s cover Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.
The whole evening is executed with reliable artistic flair, pitch-perfect vocals and musicality from the band, a satisfying visit down memory lane for many. The massive venue doesn’t allow for as much emotional charge, however, and it would have been even better with a bit more insight into the album, considering the occasion; commentary is fairly limited except for the declaration that Silver Lining was one of his personal favourites on the record. At least fans could enjoy the singer’s joke, “Needless to say it’s Friday night and I’m going nowhere” – a timely and accurate nod to Babylon.
It’s incredible how refreshing, classy and seamless a David Gray concert is, nearly three decades after his debut. Ultimately, it cements a state of timelessness which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit David Gray’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Babylon here: