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Photos: David Gray is charming and passionate at Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea

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Erik Kabik/ErikKabik.com

David Gray performs in the Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Ballroom on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

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David Gray at Cosmopolitan's Chelsea Ballroom

David Gray performs in the Cosmopolitan's Chelsea Ballroom on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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David Gray performs in the Cosmopolitan's Chelsea Ballroom on Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

During a quiet moment in his show at the Cosmopolitan on Friday night, as his band took a break, singer-songwriter David Gray sat at his piano and offered the crowd a new tune.

“I have to play it,” he said. “It’s called ‘Snow in Vegas.’ It’s about a drug experience.”

Amid a two-hour set that touched the best of Gray’s catalog, it seemed as if he’d written this one just for the night:

Just as I was thinking we’d come about as far as this road could take us. Pull on over, baby, now just stop the car, and it falls like snow in Vegas. Now hang that sign up on the door so the hotel maid don’t wake us. And anything you want, anything at all, any little thing you needed, well all you do is call.

Gray hadn’t written it for the capacity crowd inside the swank Chelsea Ballroom. He has been playing the song in recent shows.

That’s one of Gray’s charms, his ability to deliver his thoughtful and well-crafted songs with passion and conviction -- and usually with his head nodding and a leg bouncing along to the beat.

The crowd appreciated that passion, cheering loudly for hits and lesser-known songs alike.

It helped that the band sounded superb. They showed their mastery of dynamics -- throttling back for the quiet interludes in Gray’s songs -- and jamming on the gas when it was called for. The sound guy was in top form, too: The music just plain sounded great.

Gray was a respected artist for years before he became a famous one, in 2000, after his “White Ladder” album caught on. It had several radio hits: “This Year’s Love,” “Please Forgive Me,” “Sail Away” and his best-known song, “Babylon,” each of which he played Friday night.

Gray was never comfortable with the fame that arrived so suddenly. He has quoted Groucho Marx -- “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member” -- to describe his ambivalence.

But his attitude toward his art hasn’t waned. In fact, he’s become an even more prolific writer since breaking through.

On Friday, Gray showed off some of the excellent songs he’s recorded since “White Ladder”: the catchy “The One I Love”; what he called a late valentine in “Be Mine”; and the driving “Dead in the Water.”

The crowd roared its appreciation. To end things, he returned to “White Ladder” for the fitting “Say Hello Wave Goodbye.”

Editor's Note: Thanks to Erik Kabik for his photo gallery of Gray at the Cosmopolitan.

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