In all matter of fact, White Ladder, David Gray’s humble, bedroom folktronica album that would become the English singer’s multi-Platinum opus, was originally released in 1998. And though it mostly disappeared in England initially, wonderfully it stayed afloat in Ireland; two years, in fact, steadily finding an audience on the Emerald Isle until it resurfaced on the British charts at the dawn of the new millennium, and found a U.S. distributor- Dave Matthews’ ATO Records- as its stateside champion. Gratitude to the Irish, and to Gray, for holding firm in support until the rest of the world came around. 

Two decades later, in 2020, Gray intended to toast the album’s massive success with a 20-year anniversary tour marking that turnaround moment from 2000. Except, there was a global pandemic. So, the celebratory treks across Europe and the U.S., not unlike the album’s original delayed gratification, would have to wait a couple of years. It was worth it.

For when they did happen, they were magnificent; with Gray spending most of 2022 playing to sold-out houses, performing the album in its entirety, plus a selection of catalog classics and an extended encore. Here is one of those brilliant performances, taken from a mid-tour stop in Austin, Texas, that finds Gray and his band- including his drummer, Clune, instrumental in shaping the original album’s sonic personality- in peak form. This 2-LP set, available on vinyl and on streaming platforms, is quite representative of any of the tour’s stops, with Gray and his ensemble delivering an inspired, reverential, and energetic recitation of the record, in sequence. 

That means a few consequences: namely, that two of Ladder’s now-classics- “Please Forgive Me” and “Babylon,” which, back-to-back, open the album- come early in the set. Yet, Gray, so well, injects passion and prelude into the remaining songs, the evening still builds beautifully to an ending that showcases “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye,” then to a side-four encore that has to be heard to be appreciated fully. The extended finale includes nods to Soft Cell, a sweet and funny story about the band’s Glastonbury experience in 2000, and a lovely tribute to the late David Bowie.

More than a tour keepsake, this collection is a next plateau for a resilient record that keeps finding fresh peaks to summit. Whether as a studio set, or now as an exceptional live album, White Ladder is David Gray’s ongoing climb to new heights. As well, it’s Gray’s well-deserved, well-earned moment to enjoy the view.