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CONCERT REVIEW: David Gray

David Gray is probably best known for his two US radio hits, 'Babylon' and 'Meet Me on the Other Side'.

But his live show at the UIC Pavilion on Friday night was much more than that. Gray almost defies description or categorization, and I couldn't quite place him until he did a terrific cover of Van Morrison's 'It Stoned Me', and then I realized how much Gray had been influenced by Morrison; in fact, he physically resembles Morrison, if you took away Morrison's beard.

Nevertheless, that doesn't take anything away from the Manchester, England-born Gray, who both knows how to rock hard, and play softer ballads on his guitar. He's an accomplished pianist too - 'Meet Me on the Other Side' is almost completely a solo-piano lament. Gray's lyrics contain a lot of pain, but also a lot of hope. It was a terrific, high-energy show, with a crowd of mixed age -- plenty of college-age and twentysomethings, but also many people in their forties. Gray sure has the young women's vote -- during this show, six college-age women stood a couple of rows behind us and danced through the entire two-hour set.

A couple notes about the UIC Pavilion, at which I had not before seen a concert: it's smaller than the United Center, seating about 11,000 for this show, and that "intimacy" makes for far better acoustics than at either the cavernous United Center, or the wood-ceilinged Allstate Arena, formerly the Rosemont Horizon. Sound was crisp and clear last night, without being overwhelmingly too loud, as it is at many arena shows.

Despite conspicuous "No Smoking" signs and a designated smoking area, people in our section and throughout the arena were smoking all through the show. I wish security at these places would enforce the rules more stringently; this isn't just a health issue, it's a fire safety issue.

Gray's show was excellent and if he comes to your town, don't miss him. He's in the middle of a long US tour, so check the dates and go!

AYRating: ****