For me, David Gray represents my days at university in Manchester, when the carefree feeling of youth, now long gone, was under-appreciated and underused.
Maybe because Gray is a North West lad that his music got more than its fair share of radio play in that region then. It was around the time of the release of his best-selling work, White Ladder, circa 1998, which defines the musician’s style — pop, a touch folky, nice melodies and decent lyrics that captured the carefree mood of the time.
Gray’s soulful voice resonated through Media City Amphitheatre on Thursday night when he performed to a thronging crowd. Although he could have had a bit more interaction with the audience, he performed the old favourites with energy and flare.
Hits such as Babylon, This Year’s Love and Please Forgive Me got the crowd screaming for more. Gray has been credited with kicking off the soul-searching guitarist and singer song-writer genre, so we can thank him for the likes of Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith (I’ll never forgive anyone for Sam Smith.)
But as David Gray was exiting the stage, I wasn’t prepared for the next act: Chris Botti and his band with a special appearance by Sting. Shivers went coursing through my body when they began. Pure soul, jazz and class came bursting from the stage. It was what we were all there to hear. At last — jazz at the jazz festival!
With fantastic musicians and singer Sy Smith, the stage came to life with rendition of In the Wee Small Hours and much more, with Botti carrying the audience into the arms of ecstasy with his trumpet. Yes, it was intoxicating. And it seemed that everyone on the stage was having as good a time as those watching it.
Sting brought his own brand of sophistication and professionalism as he delivered some of his old hits, Fields of Gold, Roxanne and Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, as if they were new releases, and it felt like they were with the new jazz spin and that amazing band.
It was a great night and a great atmosphere, and the highlight for me was singer Sy Smith, with her beautiful, powerful voice, and a phenomenal drummer’s solo that sent the crowd into convulsions.
Thank you, Sting, for bringing this treat to Dubai.