STEVE Mason has come a long way as an artist. Looking very comfortable in his semi-starlit niche at 47, his powerful blend of emotion and politics match the times we struggle through perfectly.
Over 15 songs and 75 minutes, it is tempting to see Mason’s songs as all being cut from the same cloth. From his career-defining Beta Band days, the formula emerged fully formed – emphatic rhythms, soaring choruses and a penchant for catchy slogans on the one hand, searing emotional honesty on the other. An unholy mix of the football crowd and the confession chamber.
You can trace the line between a song such as I Walk The Earth from his early King Biscuit Time period to the latest single No More. These were the last two numbers played but worked together brilliantly.
In his CharlesHutchPress interview before his York show, Mason describes No More as being “about a country that has had its Band Aid ripped off to expose a pustule of Government hatred. But I feel immigration has brought a massive amount of joy to my life and my country, the whole country, Britain”.
The chorus chant makes his feelings obvious, but never at the expense of the melody and the groove. As a songsmith, his touch is too sure, and perhaps fixed, to stray into political hectoring.
Mason has become more accessible as he’s grown into his solo career– the euphoric Walking Away From Love a prime example of a simple idea taken to populist heights. Talking to CharlesHutchPress, Mason hinted at stepping back from this sort of chart-busting ambition (paraded on 2019’s About The Light) back into more adventurous terrain.
Learning from the wings was opener Cobain Jones, a singer-songwriter from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester. Jones is on the up, with his cover of Bob Marley’s Coming In From The Cold being produced by Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield no less. Jones’s powerful voice and songwriting are in a similar mode to Bradfield’s. Best heard on Into The Fray, his stage craft belied his 21 years.
Compared to his pop-up show at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall this time last year, Mason was far less chatty between songs, looking intent on sharing new material from Brothers And Sisters (due March 2023). With keyboardist Darren Morris providing a fuller sound, this was business rather than pleasure.
In the evening’s afterglow, the only question that really matters is, will Brothers And Sisters be worth the wait? The answer, on the basis of this cracking show, is a resounding ‘yes’; the new tunes were unmistakably Mason, full of interest, bite and tunes you want to hear again. Daring, defiant and iconoclastic, very much in the image of their creator.
Review by Paul Rhodes