From struggling troubadour to chart-topper: David Gray takes to Bórd Gais Energy Theatre stage

David Gray has had an occasionally fraught relationship with his back catalogue, once telling this writer he was a bit jaundiced playing his biggest hit, Babylon, night after night.

But aged 50 and with a fantastic new album, Gold In A Brass Age, to tour, the singer has, it seems, made peace with the obligations that come with selling over ten million records.

He has also, he says, learned to look back with a new appreciation on his unlikely journey from struggling troubadour to chart-topper.

That’s a story that of course has its roots in Ireland, where Gray was embraced when still written off in the UK as unfashionable and soppy.

So there was a sense of homecoming as he brought down the curtains on an Irish tour with two sell-outs at the BGE Theatre.

The ambition, it quickly became clear, was to do justice to the electronic textures of Gold in a Brass Age whilst presenting the hits in a different context.

This he achieved, assisted by a four-piece band (including former Lir bassist Rob Malone) which layered his emotive rasp in a featherbed of grooves.

The framing brought out the best in new material you feared might be too subtle for a live setting.

The Sapling and It’s Late (the latter written for his punctuality-adverse daughter) swirled mysteriously as Gray, in an expensive-looking charcoal suit, looped his instruments and the other musicians tinkled and glowered.

The oldies, when they arrived, blossomed like flowers after a drought. Sail Away sobbed and swirled.

Shine, as per its title, glimmered darkly, just as hypnotic as when it became a staple of RTE’s No Disco 26 years ago (we are all so very old).

A mass singalong meanwhile broke out during Babylon, written by the artist when his career outside Ireland was going nowhere and he was completely unfettered by expectations.

Grooving on the spot, Gray seemed delighted with both song and its reception.

He’s back in Ireland in July for a gig at Cork’s Live at the Marquee.

Those lucky enough to have a ticket are in for a treat.

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