REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Steve Mason and Wolf Solent, Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, December 14

Fairy lights and a lamp for Steve Mason’s Christmas-season solo show at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

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.

Tuesday’s audience and a village-hall Christmas tree at Steve Mason’s gig

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.

“I have no idea where I am,” admitted Scotsman Steve Mason at his Stockton on the Forest concert

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

Andy Fairweather Low to play Pocklington Arts Centre on February 11. Amen to that

Andy Fairweather Low: Returning to Pocklington Arts Centre next February

ANDY Fairweather Low, the veteran Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and producer, will play Pocklington Arts Centre on February 11 next year.

Founder and cornerstone of Sixties’ hitmakers Amen Corner, and later part of Fair Weather and The Bleeding Heart Band, he will perform with The Low Riders: drummer Paul Beavis, bassist Dave Bronze and saxophonist Nick Pentelow.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “Andy Fairweather Low’s pedigree is the stuff rock dreams are made of. Throughout his career, he’s worked with some of the greatest musicians in the world, so we’re delighted that he will once again be performing live here next February.  He’s an incredible talent and a truly fantastic addition to our programme of live events.”

Fairweather Low rose to fame as vocalist and leader of Amen Corner from 1966, notching up hits with the chart-topping (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice, Hello Suzy and Bend Me Shape Me. On reinventing himself as a solo artist, he reached number six with Wide Eyed And Legless in December 1975.

Over the years, Cardiff-born Fairweather Low, 72, has played with Roger Waters, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Elton John,  Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and Sheryl Crow.

Aa a stalwart of Eric Clapton’s band since the early 1990s, playing on tours until 2003, he has recorded the Unplugged, From The Cradle, Pilgrim, Riding With The King, Reptile, One More Car One More Rider, Me & Mr Johnson and Back Home albums with ‘Slowhand’. 

Fairweather Low was a regular player with George Harrison, performing on his Live In Japan album. In 2002, he played several of the lead guitar parts for the Harrison tribute, The Concert For George.

One of his longest-running musical relationships has been with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, working together since Waters’ Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking tour of the United States in 1985. 

Since then, Fairweather Low has contributed to two of Waters’ albums, 1987’s Radio K.A.O.S and 1992’s Amused To Death, and played guitar and bass on the In The Flesh world tour from 1999 to 2002. He then re-joined Waters for the Dark Side Of The Moon tour.

Tickets for Fairweather Low’s 8pm show cost £25 at