Words by Tom Frodsham
They don’t make ‘em like Macy Gray anymore. It’s official. A legend in her own way thanks to THAT distinct voice, Gray is the last of the major soul singers to emerge from America in the late ’90s. Fortunately for us, she came to Manchester’s Academy 2 as part of her Stripped Tour. Academy 2 is one of those underrated venues in the city; it’s high ceiling gives the illusion of grandeur, but the space is actually not too big to lose the intimacy you want from a gig.
Even after a near 25-minute wait, an almost restless audience forgave Macy the second she burst on stage larger than life, “Hey my sexy people, are you ready?!”. Her first outfit of the night, a metallic silver patchwork full-length coat with faux fur bell sleeves was typical of Macy’s off-the-wall funky vibe. The look matched her erratic and captivating vocal delivery from the very start. Breaking the ice with old favourite ‘Why Didn’t You Call Me?’ Gray charmed the crowd to dance with her, “dance with me, its EASY”. You can’t help but fall in love with Macy’s humour, “I hear Manchester women have the best vaginas” was the one-liner of all one-liners from the night. The crowd was seduced from then on. Her raspy, crackly vocals that made her famous sounded perfect with her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, and got one of the best reactions from the crowd of the night.
The set was broken up with every costume change; there were 3 different looks in total each more dazzling than the last. Each change came with an extended instrumental performance from her gifted live band as she changed. The costume change smartly broke up the music genre next to come. Gray successfully merged together blues, funk, reggae, jazz, soul and even a splash of disco throughout the night. Her unexpected cut of ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy?’ elevated the crowd, followed by ‘Sexual Revolution’ and a funky reggae rendition of ‘Que Sera Sera’. Who knew Macy was so adaptable?! She lifted the audiences spirit again with her personality adding “You got Brexit, we got Trump. Trust me we got it worse!” With one last costume change into a fishtail gold gown with matching feather boa, she saved signature anthem ‘I Try’ for the encore, her voice as powerful now as it was in 1999. Macy filled the entire venue with her earthy vocals that continued into the reggae flavoured ‘My Way’ to cap the nights show. Macy did the song it’s justice, inviting the audience to sing along with her just like any good, old fashioned, memorably eccentric dynamic singer does. Gray proved to be exactly that.
Macy Gray performed at Manchester Academy 2 on Saturday 18th March, 2017.