THIS seemingly incongruous venue turned out to be a smart choice. “I have no idea where I am,” Mason joked.
Yet this North Yorkshire village hall clearly put the Scotsman at ease. The former chief of the Beta Band has been enjoying a long solo revival since Boys Outside was released in 2010. His last album, 2019’s About The Light, was a wonderfully accessible collection of pop rock songs, while 2013’s Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time fulfilled all The Beta Band’s unspent promise.
Seated alone by a lamp, amid twinkling fairy lights and a Christmas tree to the side in this beautifully maintained hall, Mason would be an unlikely choice for a Christmas party. It turns out that while his songs can be downbeat and deal with serious themes, he is great company, full of stories and funny lines. He also commands your attention on stage.
Hopefully support act Wolf Solent (Yor- based Danny Trew Barton) was taking notes, as he was the opposite. He’s in good company – think Nick Drake’s disastrous tour of working men’s clubs.
Solent’s material feels steeped in lo-fi bands such as Acetone and Sparklehorse, which is a tough act to take to a live audience, but in the mix there were songs of quiet beauty.
Even his most ardent admirers might admit that Mason’s songs tend to sound alike, but he has an unerring knack of finding a way to bring both depth and melody. A new number, accompanied by stomping and clapping, was a prime example – with a timely message about needing light.
In lockdown, Mason has become, in his words and at least partly tongue in cheek, a rampant capitalist – and he was looking fetching in one of his sweatshirts. This side of him must sit uneasily with the part that “won’t follow fools”, which was a biting line in another new composition.
His faithful cover of Roger Waters’ Mother (from The Wall) felt like a natural choice, better than his expected finale of Dry The Rain, which never quite took off. The Beta Band’s signature song works better with a band, as evidenced from his Crescent show in 2019 or his star turn on the Deer Shed Festival main stage at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, that same year.
At his best, Mason is a bona-fide member of music’s business class and he certainly lit up a pitch-black December night.
Review by Paul Rhodes