Although he’s never been tested this way, David Gray could probably keep his audience hooked while singing the text of a John Deere tractor catalog. Gray performed on Thursday at the Sundance ASCAP Music Café on Lower Main Street to a packed house.
The Café was more than packed, actually—there were people perched on steps, people pressing against the barriers set up to ensure the fire department wasn’t going to shut down the house. Judging from the beatific expressions on their faces, all those people showed up because Gray has a power to emotionally connect with them, past the noise of life.
Gray was the last performer on Thursday, following Ingrid Michaelson, who sang from her new album “Human Again,” and other musicians like Natasha Bedingfield and The All-American Rejects who sang this week after being invited by ASCAP.
Gray performed several of his major hits, including “Babylon,” which had the audience more than signing along—it was like a believer’s chant. There was a group of loud people briefly acting up in the back corner and the bartender shushed them. Gray inspires that kind of reverence. He sang “Nemesis,” “Draw the Line,” and an earlier song, “This Year’s Love,” which he said is “for the romantics.”
Wistful, sad, honest, and a little raw, Gray’s songs hit people right in the heart, but there’s also something restrained about him, something existential that keeps his work from feeling sentimental. He sang “Morning of My Life,” an early Bee Gees song “before they started doing falsetto,” as Gray put it.
He also sang “Snow in Vegas,” a new song that hasn’t been released yet. After about 45 minutes of listening to David Gray, even the Festival volunteer assigned to forbid access to the front of the stage with his stern, authoritative face looked a little emotional.