The title of David Gray’s latest album is “Mutineers,” and it represents the mutinous process Gray went through in making the record: He drastically changed his songwriting process and enlisted a producer who challenged and pushed Gray to jettison old habits and leap into another creative realm.
Wednesday night, before a crowd of nearly 900 people at the Uptown Theater, Gray and a seven-piece band delivered live versions of nine “Mutineers” songs, plus a dozen others pulled from a catalog that goes back more than 20 years. They rendered all of them in fashions and arrangements that were often as dynamic as they were dramatic, as if sprung from a place between Coldplay and U2.
Throughout the two-hour set, Gray switched from piano to acoustic guitar. During “Last Summer,” he played ukulele; he blew the blues harp during “Mutineers.” Except for a three-song solo-acoustic interlude, he was accompanied by a band that included cellist Caroline Dale, who embroidered several songs with fills and leads. She was also one of as many as six vocalists in the band. Several times, including “Back in the World,” all six were singing along with Gray, adding layers of harmonies, like a gospel choir.
Older songs like “Silver Lining” and “Nemesis” benefited from the new arrangements. “Nemesis” was particularly dynamic, starting off slow and tranquil, bathed in cello and keyboards, then gradually erupting into a loud, heavy storm of guitars, keyboards and vocals.
All of that was embellished by an elaborate light show that colored the mood, bathing Gray and the band in light or casting them in silhouette. During the acoustic interlude, Gray stood at the confluence of four white spotlights that formed a radiant crown around and above him.
That acoustic set included “Babylon,” Gray’s biggest hit, which generated a roaring sing-along and stoked a crowd that had been enthusiastic from the start, thanks in part to the heroics of the local baseball team. (A “Let’s Go, Royals” chant broke out before the encore).
Gray followed “Babylon” with a full-band version of “Sail Away,” another favorite, which prompted a few dozen people up front to get out of their folding chairs and dance.
He closed with two from his “Life in Slow Motion,” including the anthem “The One I Love.” It’s a declaration of love and liberation, and, as he did all night, Gray leaned hard into it, singing it like a man emancipated and unburdened.
Birds of the High Arctic; Girl Like You; As the Crow Flies; Mutineers; Last Summer; The Incredible; Cake and Eat It; Back in the World; My Oh My; Fugitive; Silver Lining; Nemesis; Gulls; This Year’s Love; Gathering Dust; Hospital Food; Babylon; Sail Away; Please Forgive Me; Alibi; The One I Love.