It’s a funny old thing – a gig in a store. Usually you’re surrounded by shirts and shoes, browsing while listening to whoever’s been booked to make things look trendy. Tonight though, there was nothing to detract from the super Steve Mason. An empty shop, with black walls, and a smear of hipsters, or whatever the collective noun may be.
This was a good thing. It meant all eyes were on Mason, former The Beta Band, former King Biscuit Time, former Black Affair… now just Steve Mason, backed by his own band.
The Stone Island jacket Mason was sporting was the only merch on show as he ripped into a back catalogue that only reaffirmed his talent, choosing songs mainly from his last few solo albums and EPs.
‘A Lot Of Love’ blended acoustic guitar and keys with meandering bass and some brilliant percussion while ‘Boys Outside’ from 2010’s record with the same name was a little slow for a room full of quiffs on free booze, but pretty magical.
A sore throat didn’t stand in the way of the chilling ‘All Come Down’, hazy with reverb before exploding into a bloom of beats. The keys were slightly drowned, but it didn’t detract from the kind of songs that Mason has made his name with – ethereal, emotive, but with a hint of the right kind of indie attitude.
It’s also amazing how strong Mason’s voice is live for such a quiet and understated artist, often hiding in the shadows and often battling what seems to be a forever-lurking depression. Tonight, he’s a brilliant frontman and seems worlds away from his illness. ‘Am I Just A Man’ and ‘Never Be Alone’ are just as giving, wrapping a big sound around his gentle vocals. It even has an air of Richard Hawley in parts.
It’s nice to hear an old number in ‘C I Am 15’ from his King Biscuit Time days. It’s quite a contrast – dancier, more electronic, less melodic. The song writing’s matured over the years, but this song only shows that Mason has always tried new directions and blurred boundaries. He’s like that cool underground indie type that your Gallaghers or Ashcrofts could only dream of being. A lot poorer than them we're sure, but much cooler!
Closer ‘Fire!’ begins with Mason explaining that its subject matter is "too depressing to talk about". Despite this, the band looks like it’s having a whale of a time. It’s big, single material, but there’s something of the night about it. It’s just pure evil that Mason leaves it here tonight, surrounded by darkness, strip lights and a lot of bearded men in sunglasses. Better get out while we can.
Words by Gemma Hampson
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