The ‘acoustic’ element of these live sessions is becoming increasingly tentative as the selection of laptops, a synth and keyboard indicates a more robust performance is to follow this evening. Dressed smartly in a shirt and tie James Yuill takes to the stage looking a little awkward to one of the largest crowds so far. An acoustic guitar decorates his back and looking dapper in his glasses and blonde side-parting he immediately launches into an electronic disco stomp. Often dubbed Folktronica due to his Nick Drake leanings the tag doesn’t really do him justice.
The room bobs and weaves with an excitable enthusiasm during his short set that included ‘Crying for Hollywood’ and ‘On Your Own’ from his recent album ‘Movement In The Storm’. Being the one man band he is, there’s much flitting from one end of the stage to another adjusting knobs to their suitable positions, pushing buttons with aplomb, pouring out sensitive vocals and darting his fingers up and down his guitar strings. When its time for the music to stop, he banters with the crowd confessing a certain uneasiness when playing live adding “as anyone at the iTunes show would know” refereeing to his recent Roundhouse show with Phoenix. As Summer Camp did last week he doesn’t hold back his love for Moshi Moshi who put out his records and as questions are bounced around he admits to being a big fan of bands on Warp, name checking Clark and to the subject of preferring to be making his music at home in his room rather than playing live, because of the potential of making mistakes.
With a small dispersion of audience members former Beta Band front man Steve Mason is tonight’s headliner.
Casually dressed he sits on a stool with his acoustic guitar on his lap. As with Chilly Gonzales previously his presence contributes considerably to the atmosphere, more so than his music. Feeling comfortable he talks about his time suffering from mental illness and suicidal tendencies and jokes about having to record a commercial album to pay the bills and during this he manages to slip in delicately plucked renditions of solo songs. Beginning with ‘Boy’s Outside’ he jokes “this is the one I’m not sure about, so I’ll get it out of the way” and with a couple of false starts and chortling fans he gets the ball rolling which also sees him play ‘All Come Down’ as well Beta Band classic ‘Simple’ and with a few mistakes he laughs and asks if the filming could be edited down to the giggling crowd.
There’s no doubt that he has quite an effect on some of the people there as they shout “you’re the greatest!” and “you carried the Beta Band mate”; something that he coyly avoids before answering “I know” jokingly before retracting “in case a contract is put out on me in Scotland”. When it comes to questions he’s more than happy to open up; all the way from his personal troubles to his best Beta Band show and who would be in his super group and the direction that the music industry is heading. He ends the night on a bit of a classic and after earlier in the evening telling the story behind the song he finishes with the haunting Beta Band number ‘Dr. Baker’. Steve Mason: Everyday bloke, musical icon and budding dub producer.
Words by Lee Puddefoot
View an accompanying gallery from the gig HERE.
Find out more about Levi’s Craft Of Music acoustic sessions HERE and sign up for free tickets on their Facebook page HERE.