Before I launch into details about tonight's David Gray show at Summerfest, I must gush about the venue itself. London-based singer-songwriter Gray took the BMO Harris Pavilion two minutes before his scheduled 9:45 p.m. time-slot and I was already completely smitten with the pavilion. I would become completely smitten with Gray later, but first, more about the space.
The BMO stage, new to the Big Gig grounds this year, is my new favorite outdoor concert venue. It's a mini Marcus Amphitheater with access to a full bar (JoJo's Martini Lounge) and thanks to its proximity to the lake, even on a 100-degree day, offers a refreshing breeze blowing off the lake. Plus, the bleacher seats have backs to them and are free. "Real" seats are also available for a cost.
We checked out both the bleacher seats and the reserved "blue" seats and realized there really isn't a problematic location in the house. Even from the last few rows of the bleachers, the on-stage action is visible and it's amplified by the large screens as well.
But enough about the venue, back to David.
I saw the English singer-songwriter a few years ago at The Riverside and wondered if he would deliver as equally an intimate-feeling, passionate and all-around impressive performance at the Big Gig on such a hot and steamy evening. Once again, Gray proved himself to be one of the most sincere, talented and emotionally-accessible performers out there.
Take "Lately," for example, which was his fifth song in the set. The human-to-human delivery of the song â€“ particularly with the line "Lately I've been way down" â€“ rings true to anyone and everyone who has been there. In a culture of snark and irony, Gray brings unashamed, unguarded, Van Morrison-esque emotion into the mix.
Gray's intensity was further punctuated by the almost full orange moon, Â almost directly above his head for the first few tunes, including fan favorite, "Sail Away," a rocking version of "Fugitive" and then two songs he referred to as "a bit of a blast from the past": "Late Night Radio" and "Faster, Sooner."
Gray also ripped through "Silver Lining," "Lately," "You're The World To Me," "Nemesis," many couple's theme song "This Year's Love was Meant To Last," "Kathleen," "My Oh My" and an interesting cover of "Money," most famously covered by The Beatles mashed up with "Pressure Drop" by The Maytals.
Gray went on to play "Draw The Line" and a sing-a-long encore of, no surprise here, "Babylon."
The band was tight, with little on stage communication, but clearly in sync. Gray was gracious, thanking the audience often and giving accolades to Summerfest for offering such a diverse music experience. He also gently questioned the venue, too, pointing out that both Iron Maiden on the Marcus Amphitheater stage and Ziggy Marley on the Miller Lite Stage were wafting into our sound range.
But most of the time, Gray was eyes closed and, often, arms wide open, half-smiling and sweating in his long-sleeved shirt and vest. (Band members were wearing suits!)
In 1993, Gray released his first album, "A Century Ends." He spent the first six years of his career building a small but dedicated fan base that was mostly in the U.K. â€“ where he remains extremely popular today.
In 1998, he released his fourth record, "White Ladder," on his private label, IHT records. The album was self-financed and recorded in his apartment. It was later rereleased on ATO Records in 2000, and this time, "White Ladder" became Gray's breakthrough album which contained huge hits, "Please Forgive Me," "Babylon," "This Year's Love" and "Sail Away."
Following the success of "White Ladder," two compilation albums of his earlier material were released, followed by "A New Day At Midnight," "Life In Slow Motion," "Draw the Line" and his most recent album, "Foundling," a double album featuring 11 new songs and eight previously unreleased older tunes that was released in 2010.
Currently, Gray is in the early stage of making a new album that does not have a release date yet.
The 44-year-old Gray was born in England, but spent most of his childhood living in Wales. Today, he lives in London with his wife, Olivia, and their two daughters.
Apparently, Gray is part Vulcan, too. "Live long and prosper," he said toward the end of the show.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published Nov. 30, 2015
OnMilwaukee heard Children's Hospital was in need of socks, and so we decided to help out with a Holiday Sock Drive to collect pairs and packages of socks for infants, children, teens and adults.
Published Nov. 29, 2015
Recently, OnMilwaukee caught up with Chris March, a finalist on season four of "Project Runway," "Project Runway All-Star Challenge" and creator of the exuberant, whimsical costumes for the Skylight's "My Fair Lady."
Published Nov. 27, 2015
On a recent Friday afternoon, we stopped in for lunch at Liquid Johnny's in West Allis. No, we did not have a "liquid lunch," despite the name of the bar and restaurant, but we certainly thought about it.
Published Nov. 26, 2015
The Black Friday shopping experience is a big, mixed bag of savings and safety issues. Milwaukee's Melanie Rice and Bryan Zysk know this first-hand. One even suffered a broken foot in a brawl over a DVD player.
Published Nov. 25, 2015
Recently, OnMilwaukee's Molly Snyder went to the Brew City Bruisers Boot Camp to test her roller skating skills and bad assery. Turns out, she spent a lot of time on her bad ass.
Published Nov. 24, 2015
Candy Cane Lane will celebrate 30 years this season when it plugs in the lights on Friday, Nov. 27. They will stay aglow through Sunday, Dec. 27.
Published Nov. 22, 2015
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers an array of social services, including The Robyn's Nest, run by Lona Long and a team of volunteers to provide clothing and other items to kids and foster families.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Earlier this week, after looking at tragic photos of Syrian refugee children on Facebook, Gretchen Mead decided she was going to invite refugees to stay in extra rooms in her bungalow-style home in Shorewood.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Suddenly, the warm-and-comfy factor in bars is a big deal, and so OnMilwaukee stepped up and went out on a couple of windy, chilly nights last week to scout out some of the city's coziest bars.
Published Nov. 19, 2015
Recently, we posted a story about the now-defunct Captain's Steak Joynt chain of restaurants and many readers remembered its famous cheese fondue. We got the recipe and last night we made it.