REVIEW: Macy Gray introduces Napa’s Blue Note to her next album

Macy Gray

Macy Gray performs at the Blue Note in Napa on Jan. 14, 2023. Nate McKinley/STAFF.

NAPA — On a stormy night, Grammy-award-winning singer Macy Gray performed a sold-out show at the Blue Note Saturday night with her band The California Jet Club, in her signature, eclectic style. Gray brought the crowd to its feet with a some songs from her back catalog and tracks from 2022’s The Reset, as well as from her next album that will be released on Valentine’s Day.

Macy Gray
Two shows: 3 and 6:30 p.m., Sunday
The Blue Note, Napa
Tickets for 3 p.m. show: $125. (late show sold out).

After a 45-minute delay to the start of the second of two shows Saturday night, Gray hit the stage, preceded by her band. Gray was resplendent in a long, burnished gold dress, matching the highlights in her hair. The cabaret-style room was packed with an animated audience that seemed eager to participate. Many got up and started dancing in place to various tunes throughout the roughly 90-minute set. The mostly middle-aged crowd appeared to know her songbook beyond the iconic “I Try.”

Gray’s raspy voice was in impeccable form as the she enthusiastically engaged with the audience, remarking multiple times, “You all are awfully quiet for sexy people,” before asking attendees to participate in a call-and-response or sing along. Gray kicked off her set with the title track from her eighth studio album, The Way, released in 2014, and followed up with another track from the same album, “Me With You.”

Macy Gray

Macy Gray performs at the Blue Note in Napa on Jan. 14, 2023.

Sometimes mistaken as a one-hit-wonder, the prolific artist has reinvented herself once again. The California Jet Club, with keyboardist Billy Wes, drummer Tamir Barzilay and bassist Alex Kyhn, collaborated with Gray in writing 11 of the 13 tracks from The Reset. Their strong jazz, soul and funk influences are married perfectly to Gray’s iconic raspy vocal tone, bringing forth a combination that’s refreshingly compelling.

Marching on to familiar territory, Macy Gray and her band launched into a cover of Count Basie and Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” her voice familiarly settling in melodically on the jazz standard. Sticking to the jazz theme, Gray sang “Nothing Else Matters” from her sixth album, Covered. Her raspy tone soared over the jazzy elements of the song, and she encouraged the crowd to clap along in a staccato tone to the rhythm of the song.

She transitioned back to her debut album, performing a different mix of “Still,” with the band playing the melody to India Arie’s “Video,” and then jumped ahead to the spiritual, reggae-esque rhythms of “Witness,” off of 2018’s Ruby. Going back to earlier music, Gray sang “Relating To a Psychopath,” the fast-paced psychedelic pop ditty from her 2001 album, The Id.

She followed that up with 1999’s “Do Something.” From there, the band took a funky turn in the transition to a cover of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” before launching into “Sexual Revolution.”

Capping off the night, Gray performed a bare-bones version of “I Try.” The crowd of course sang along to the smash hit, and the band joined in to finish it out. Catchy pop-blues song “White Man” followed. She concluded the set with another song from the upcoming album, featuring vocals from Billy Wes. The last line of the song, “”so long everybody,” however, was from “The Letter,” from Gray’s debut, On How Life Is.

Gray will perform two more shows in Napa on Sunday.

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