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Playing Liverpool gigs feels like coming home; THIS YEAR'S LOVE: David Gray at his O2 Academy gig last year.

TIME was when you could watch David Gray for nothing but a bit of loose change as you supped your pint in pubs around the city. On sunny days you might catch him busking outside too, honing his craft and writing the songs that helped him sell 12 million albums around the world, not to mention the best selling album in Ireland ever with White Ladder.

Then there's his BAFTA nomination for soundtrack work on Amma Assante''s film A Way Of Life, two Ivor Novellos, a Q award, two Brit nominations, and a Grammy nomination.

Now, following the completion of his sold out US tour this year, the University of Liverpool graduate is bringing his Lost and Found tour to the Philharmonic Hall. But despite living minutes away from the venue for years, he says he's never been in before.

"Do you know I must have walked past that place every day I lived in Liverpool and I never set foot inside the door," he laughs.

"I could never afford a ticket. When was in Liverpool, that was when I had no money, so I'd walk past, but I never saw a show there. I don't even know what it looks like inside, but everyone says how good it is, so I'm looking forward to it."

He says he's also looking forward to bringing his new material to Liverpool.

"This was where I made my first demo, where I got my confidence playing in Peter Kavanagh''s and all the pubs round there," he says.

"I always have a good time when I play in Liverpool. I was a student in Liverpool, and then I stayed on in Liverpool, so I lived there for about six years altogether.

"I wrote a lot of my early songs there. I stayed on after university. We lived in the old Bridewell prison. I used to live in the little turret. It was the coldest flat I've ever had. The walls were so thick they just swallowed all the heat. So I'd sit there shivering, writing my songs. It was a happy time of my life, something I'll always look back on fondly.

"I used to love playing the end of term gigs in the art school at Hardman House.

"So now, when I'm in Liverpool I try to go back to those places. I'll go for a pint at the Philharmonic pub, have a few drinks up and down Hope Street. That was my old stomping ground.

"I even had a doppleganger. One day I was walking up Hardman Street and I saw this guy who looked just like me. He could have been me. So I think even when I moved away, I was still here, or at least he was, looking like me."

When he was in town last year, David played the O2 Academy.

Like his upcoming Philharmonic Hall performance, that gig sold out in hours.

Tickets were changing hands for four times their face value and inside the venue was packed as Liverpool paid tribute to the man who started his career here.

"It was a great gig that one," he smiles. "I had such a good time. It was boiling hot and there was a really noisy band downstairs that we had to keep drowning out, but it felt like a proper rock and roll show. I got a bit nostalgic. We even finished with a Beatles song, and having lived in Liverpool, that isn't something I'd do lightly."

This time, it will be a more acoustic show he says, as it's part of his Lost and Found tour.

"It's more than just an opportunity to play some of the quieter, more intimate songs, not only from Foundling but from across my catalogue," says David.

"It will provide a platform for a completely different approach. In terms of the way that the sound of the music is captured and presented, it will be more like a recording session than a gig in many ways.

"Acoustic instruments will be mic'd up for their real sound, rather than going for the usual pick-up sound, and as a result volume levels both for the band and the audience will have to be kept much lower than at your average rock show.

"Hopefully the sonic results will be more than worth the sacrifice of a few decibels.

"Essentially the Lost and Found show will be a listening experience, rather than a jumping up and down rock and roll one.

"I hope that a lot of the people who came to the O2 Academy are there, because we had such a good time, but it is going to be a very different show."

? David Gray plays the Lost and Found Tour at the Philharmonic Hall on Friday, May 27. Tickets (pounds 38.50/29.50 plus booking fee) are sold out but for returns see or call 0844 811 0051.

Jade Wright recommends ...

JOSH T Pearson's debut solo album Last of the Country Gentlemen - a collection of seven songs drawn from the lessons of what he describes as "a rough year", was released this month after a self-imposed hiatus that stretched out over 10 years.

The songs themselves are personal, powerful, painful and full of brutal honesty, offering hope from the trials he's suffered and survived.

He'll release the single, Woman When I've Raised Hell on May 9 as an accompaniment to a gig at the O2 Academy Liverpool the next day, supporting Drive By Truckers.

To say it will be special is an understatement. A recent solo show in London was given 5/5 by The Times, which described it as follows: "Not since Leonard Cohen has an artist emerged who can evoke such profound extremes of human emotion through the device of a simple musical perfor mance."

Added to this, there was a special limited 250 pressing on 12" of two exclusive piano versions of Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ & Country Dumb for Record Store Day and Josh will also appear covering a smattering of Mute classics at the Short Circuit festival on 14 May.

You might recognise Josh's name. He was in the short-lived band Lift to Experience, which released one sprawling masterpiece, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, before splitting.

When the band performed at the SXSW festival in 2000, they impressed Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie so much that they signed the band to their record label, Bella Union, that same day. So beloved by John Peel were they that he had LTE record three sessions in five months, included in the Best 125 Peel Sessions of all time.

? Josh T Pearson, May 10 Liverpool Academy. pearson
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2011
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