Macy Macy Macy, well, what can I say? It really was a game of two halves.
Let me caveat this review by saying it’s Sunday. A really rainy, good for nothing Sunday. The type of Sunday that would make sense in a blues song, which is handy as Marcy Gray was booked as the headline act for the Jazz Festival at Colston Hall. Now I have to be honest, I generally find the sound is less than great in the main space, and that night was no exception. I was on the upper balcony so that might have something to do with it, but that room is just not cut out for the husky tones of Ms Gray. The backing band, a tight quintet with international sprawl, sounded clear as a bell, but for some reason, the main jewel in the crown was began as barely audible.
Okay, we are 1 for nought already.
Macy has presence, there is no doubt about that. At 6 ft, wrapped in a red feather boa and sporting some mighty fine zebra heels, she’s not likely to be missed. But unusually she doesn’t command the stage in a typical big band style. She seems almost reserved in her role as front woman. Often turning to the back of the stage and missing those opportunities (be them for staged or not) to orchestrate her band to ‘play it again’ or ‘give me one more beat’ in that quintessential James Brown style. The band hardly needed managing, they knew full well how to play and how to play well, which is good as they rocked 5 keyboards, a sax, drums, bass and a harmonium between the 4 of them. But it felt like a missed opportunity for Macy not to have that classic jazz/blues interaction with them.
Which leads me to my next point, if I’m honest if felt lacking in energy. Gray seemed to find the venue a bit tricky and I do get it – a sit down gig on a rainy Sunday in Bristol might not have been the highlight of the tour, but it was a sold out show. And as far as those setbacks, Bristol was ready for her! The crowd, although seated, were very much feeling her vibe. Of course this was definitely helped by her amazing chat between songs. I mean I thought I’d heard it all, but when Macy Gray announced that Google told her that Bristol women had very nice vaginas…well, I think that just tops it right?!
She seemed to come into her own when she chatted between the songs and there was an amazing turning point, spurred on by a costume change (I literally love a costume change!) and a straight up talk to the audience about letting go, being free and dancing in the aisle – This was all we needed to hear Macy! That last 15 minutes was a beautiful sight to behold. The aisles swelled with Sunday-I-Don’t-Care’ers as people took to the floor to dance. She rewarded us with the tune we were all humming all day long in anticipation of this gig – ‘I Try’, but also with new tracks which sounded oh so sweet and a few covers including Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and ending with ‘My Way’. Its official, Macy turned that gig around!
Leaving the venue, I chatted to my friend and her family, they all seemed very happy with the gig, and didn’t pick up on my point of lack of energy so maybe it was just me? Either way, I felt cold coming in but I left pretty darn hot!