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Volume 68, Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Gray's performance rich with hypnotism, seduction

By Nathan Nix
The Daily Cougar

Don't let David Gray fool you. He may produce albums full of pretty singer/songwriter pop gems (or "secretary rock" as some call it), but he just uses that as bait to draw you to his concerts, where he then turns your favorite tune into a 10-minute wall of lush noise, rich with seduction and hypnotism.

This is exactly what took place at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Sunday night as he took the stage to an unimpressive yet adoring crowd of all ages.

After opener Turin Brakes charmed the crowd with the elegant sounds of their debut album, The Optimist LP, which weaves soaring acoustic-driven instrumentation with lilting vocals reminiscent of Muse's Matt Bellamy or singer/songwriter Damien Rice, Gray took to the stage just before dusk.

Dixie Ann Dalton/The Daily Cougar

David Gray performed half of his set behind a baby grand piano surrounded by his band members and a very simple, yet beautiful set backdrop at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Sunday night.

Stepping out from behind an enormous red velvet curtain that shrouded the stage, he took a seat at a lone baby grand piano and opened the show with "The Other Side," the dreadfully beautiful lead single off his latest album, A New Day at Midnight.

When the second verse came around, the curtain was pulled back to reveal the rest of his band surrounded by what was perhaps the most stunning yet simple stage décor I've seen lately.

Despite having to fight off infamous Houston heat and humidity, Gray led the audience through about 20 songs, particularly from his two most recent albums.

"I think English people disappear when the temperature reaches 100 degrees," he said.

On the sixth song, the previously unreleased "All the Love," Gray let his true intentions out of the bag. 

Gray switched over to guitar during the set that mostly drew from the singer's two newest albums.

Dixie Ann Dalton/ The Daily Cougar

The song started off simple enough, with him on piano, then took a turn for the unexpected just when it seemed like it was drawing to a close. As the band slowed down, a fuzzed-out bass line recharged the song, which then turned into a wall of lush noise not unlike a Sigur Ros opus or Radiohead experimentation. 

After turning a four-minute pop song into a 10-minute sonic head blast, the song ended and brought the crowd to its feet for the first time.

This led into his latest single, "Be Mine," where he raised the bar even higher through an audio-visual experience that transported the audience into a fairy-tale land of ornate carousels and vibrant red and blues set off by the red velvet curtains that surrounded the stage.

Gray finished off a brilliant set that shrewdly combined intimate moments, droning aural experiments and pure pop pleasures with his usual show-ender, "Please Forgive Me," off White Ladder.

The looped drums combined with simple melodies to showcase Gray's strengths perhaps more than any other song of the night and provided a perfect, upbeat climax to an absolutely beautiful evening.

David Gray

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The verdict: Gray's show was simply beautiful and innovative.

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