A co-headlining tour always seems to be a gamble—either it’s a brilliant pairing that can make the most out of two fan bases or a head-tilter that leaves you wondering why this was ever an idea. The combined tour of singer-songwriters Amos Lee and David Gray, who played Verizon Theatre on Friday night, fortunately falls into the former category as one of the best double-feature tours around.
Where Lee takes nothing too seriously and easily ad-libs jokes and commentary between his soulful acoustic tracks, Gray buttons up the night with his quiet demeanor, clean vocals and piano skills. The North Texas stop Friday featured Gray at the helm, allowing Lee to warm up the crowd with his buttery jazz vocals, surprising cover songs and off-the-cuff stage presence.
There’s no doubt that Lee knows how to work a crowd, both with his natural charm and with the help of his multi-talented band at his back. With the hushed crowd waiting on every word, Lee made his way through his catalog, adding a gorgeous cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” and a sexy rendition of Ginuwine’s “Pony” to throw everyone off.
With a laser sharp focus on every detail of his set, from the black and white ivories to the soaring vocals, David Gray dove straight into the music, barely stopping to chat in between numbers. Such a polished and powerful delivery of every song takes years to master—and with his biggest singles such as “Babylon” and “Sail Away” coming from 1998’s White Ladder, he has the necessary experience.
Comfortably vulnerable yet graceful, Gray left it all on the stage at the peak of his set during “Nightblindness,” a quiet, somber number which he performed on an acoustic guitar. He began whispering rambling lines throughout the song, as if he was pleading with the audience to ease his pain. His bleak words shot across the theater along with the slow glittering light from the large disco balls behind the band.
As he continued to strum through “Nightblindness,” Gray folded in a short snippet of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” without missing a beat or breaking character. This emotional breakthrough helped Gray lose himself a little—once he concluded the elongated track, he jokingly admitted he had broken away from the set list.
Song after song—whether from his newest release, 2014’s Mutineers, or from the archives—showcased the British songwriter’s immense talent. Wrenching lyrics sung with honesty and force danced perfectly with the pounding piano keys. Gray doesn’t hold back, delivering writhing yells and whisper-to-a-scream verses with head kicked back in songs like “Birds of the High Arctic,” displaying agony and happiness with equal aplomb.
The fleeting encore included one of his biggest and oldest career hits, “Babylon,” to the audience’s delight. But Gray stumbled over the opening, laughing it off and saying that he had forgotten the words and needed our help. Even with his professional demeanor and polite nature, these small, subtle breaks in character helped shape Friday’s show, making it feel more like a rare opportunity than just another stop in the tour.