REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Steve Mason and Pictish Trail, The Crescent, York

Steve Mason performing at The Crescent as part of Independent Venue Week. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

Independent Venue Week presents Steve Mason and Pictish Trail, The Crescent, York, January 30 2024

A LIGHT end to the darkest month. Steve Mason is a colourful and welcome visitor to The Crescent, a venue that he seems very comfortable in.

Mason was performing with his band, Calie Hough on drums and his long-serving keyboard maestro, Darren Morris, channelling everything else. The trio clearly means business, and the set has been well road tested.

Compared with his recent York concerts (December 2022 at the same venue and a December 2021 solo set at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall), there were few slower, sadder songs, resulting in a more dynamic set that also included a wholesome number of Beta Band favourites from his earlier days.

Steve Mason: “Conga playing was a towel-wearing nod to his inventive use of percussion in his work

While young people will never study Mason’s words as English literature, he is a master at driving home a repeated message or a melody. No More being the most obvious, but Upon My Soul was an unexpected soaring highlight.

Throughout the 80-some minutes, Mason was in motion, all eyes fixed on him as he commanded the stage. His guitar playing reflected his energy, vigorous and strident, while his conga playing was a towel-wearing nod to his inventive use of percussion in his work. The trio more than did justice to the clever, adventurous settings from his Brothers And Sisters album, with seven numbers played.

Supporting Mason was his friend and fellow sonic adventurer, The Pictish Trail, the non de plume of Johnny Lynch. Hailing from the Scottish Isle of Eig, Lynch has a wonderful left-of-centre view of the world.

A natural performer, he was warm and funny between songs; even bringing some levity to the near-death car crash that inspired him to write In Heaven Tonight. Lynch’s set drew most from his most recent album, 2022’s Island Family, with the title track memorably conjuring a bonfire night on the island with the many dead souls also present.

Pictish Trail: “A wonderful left-of-centre view of the world”

His clever, animated use of beats and effects sometimes offset some pretty forgettable melodies. Lynch’s mistake-defying hand-eye coordination while wearing a large mask is an image few will forget, unlike the song he was performing.

Mason’s songs are all cut from a similar melodic cloth, but at his best, his tunes have stood the test of time. His feted work with The Beta Band was an early purple patch – tuneful but never towing any conventional line (Dry The Rain of course, mid-set this time, finding room for Squares, also excellent and the soulful Dog Got A Bone).

It was his wonderful King Biscuit Time song I Walk The Earth that brought the house down as the first encore; arguably his best tune to cap another fine Crescent night.

Review by Paul Rhodes 

Pictish Trail’s “mistake-defying hand-eye coordination while wearing a large mask is an image few will forget”

More Things To Do in York in 2024…and beyond. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 1 for the New Year, from The Press, York

Shed Seven: Launching new album with meet & greet at HMV, York, on Friday

WHAT lies ahead in the New Year? Charles Hutchinson picks his path through highlights across the city’s venues.

It’s only A Matter Of Time before: Shed Seven release their new album

YORK band Shed Seven will mark the January 5 release of their sixth studio album, A Matter Of Time, on new home Cooking Vinyl with a meet & greet/signing session that day at HMV, in Coney Street, York, at 4.30pm (tickets: Their midday appearance and stripped-back performance on the same day at Vinyl Whistle, in Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, has sold out.

In the summertime, when the weather is hopefully fine, The Sheds will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a brace of outdoor concerts in York Museum Gardens on July 19 and 20, supported by Peter Doherty, no less. Both have sold out already. Box office:

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company cast members peer out through and beneath the JoRo curtain in Curtains

It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 7 to 10, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes. Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Steve Mason: Independent Venue Week gig at The Crescent. Picture: Gavin Watson

Beta times ahead: Brudenell Presents Steve Mason, The Crescent, York, January 30, 7.30pm 

SCOTTISH indie songwriter Steve Mason, founder of The Beta Band, returns to The Crescent as part of Independent Venue Week. Combining a rare melodic gift with an itch to experiment, as heard on his 2023 album Brothers & Sisters, he investigates where the boundaries lie between the craft of songwriting, technology and free expression.

Taking part in Independent Venue Week too will be Leeds band English Teacher, whose January 28 night of dreamy pop and post-punk noise has sold out already. Box office:

Monster show: The Apatosaurus in Jurassic Live, bound for York Barbican

Dinosaurs take over York: Jurassic Live 2024 World Tour, York Barbican, February 16, 5pm; February 17, 11am and 3pm; February 18, 1pm

LIFE-SIZED monstrous beasts roar into York in an interactive all-star theatrical spectacular featuring the world’s only Tylosaurus in a giant tank (new for 2024), the last flying Pterodactyl, a Tyrannosaurus Rex called Suzie and more dinosaur species than any other show on Earth.

Join little Amber, Ranger Joe, Ranger Nora and the rest of the Jurassic Live rangers on  a musical journey to help save the day from an evil man who is trying to shut down the Jurassic facility. Box office:

Amber Davies’s Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward and Oliver Savile’s wealthy businessman Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman: The Musical at Grand Opera House, York

Most anticipated touring musical: Pretty Woman: The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday

BILLED as “Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage”, Pretty Woman: The Musical is set once upon a time in the late 1980s, when Vivian (Amber Davies) meets Edward (Oliver Savile) and her life is changed forever.

Strictly champ Ore Oduba’s Happy Man/Mr Thompson and Natalie Paris’s Kit De Luca will be in the cast too for a musical featuring original music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. Box office:

The tour poster for Wise Children’s Blue Beard, opening the bl**dy door at York Theatre Royal from February 27

World premiere of the season: Emma Rice’s Wise Children in Blue Beard, York Theatre Royal, February 27 to March 9, 7.30pm and 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

BLUE Beard will be Wise Children’s fourth visit to York after Wise Children, Malory Towers and Wuthering Heights, this time in a co-production between Emma Rice’s Bristol company, York Theatre Royal, Birmingham Rep, HOME Manchester and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.

Rice brings her brand of theatrical wonder to the beguiling and disturbing folk tale of Bluebeard meeting his match when his young bride discovers his dark and murderous secret. Summoning all her rage, all her smarts and all her sisters, she vows to bring the curtain down on his tyrannous reign. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Rob Auton: At his most Rob Auton in The Rob Auton Show at The Crescent, York

Welcome home: Rob Auton, The Rob Auton Show, Burning Duck Comedy Club, The Crescent, York, February 28, 7.30pm

AFTER nine Edinburgh Fringe shows on themes as diverse as the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking, time and crowds, York writer, comedian, artist and actor Rob Auton delivers his most autobiographical work, exploring the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. Box office:

Rhod Gilbert’s poster for his tour show with a Giant Grapefruit at York Barbican

Comedy comeback : Rhod Gilbert & The Giant Grapefruit, York Barbican, June 20, 8pm

IN his last show, The Book Of John, firebrand Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert dealt with “some pretty pungent life citrus” and an idiot called John. Little did he know that things were about to turn even more sour.

Gilbert, 55, required surgery for metastatic cancer of the head and neck as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, receiving his first clear cancer scan in October after undergoing treatment.

“Not bitter, he’s bouncing back and feeling remarkably zesty”, returning with a dark, passionate and way-too-personal tour show that squeezes every last drop out of life’s latest curveballs…with a little help from an old adversary. Box office:

Jason Donovan: Doin’ fine at York Barbican in…wait for it…2025

Even further ahead: Jason Donovan, Doin’ Fine 25 Tour, York Barbican, March 8 2025, 8pm  

IF 2023 was the year of Kylie, all that attention on Tension, Padam Padam and ITV’s An Audience With, then 2025, yes 2025, promises a York date with her Neighbours beau, Jason Donovan, in celebration of his “incredible ride” through 35 years in music, theatre, film and television.

His long-awaited sequel to Doin’ Fine 90 will feature Jason’s most beloved songs from his stage shows, nods to his TV times in Neighbours and Strictly Come Dancing and his biggest pop hits. Box office:

In Focus: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, cleaning up from February 6 to 10

Neil Vincent, left, Clare Halliday, Chris Pomfrett, Victoria Delaney and Mick Liversidge in rehearsal for York Actors Collective’s February production of Beyond Caring

YORK Actors Collective follows March 2023’s debut production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane with Beyond Caring, a play that highlights the social damage inflicted by zero hours contracts. 

Devised by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in East London in 2014, later transferring to the National Theatre, the story of agency cleaners at a meat factory will be directed in York by Angie Millard, working with a cast of Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent.

Over 90 unbroken minutes, Beyond Caring follows two women, Becky and Grace, and one man, Sam (replacing Sarah from past productions in a directorial decision), as they confront the reality of low wage, zero-hour contract employment, never sure of how many hours they have to work, when they will be paid and whether their ‘job’ will continue.

Director Angie Millard says: “This play is remarkable in its structure and power. It totally represents 2024 where many workers are on the breadline, trapped in employment with no guarantee of further work and no way to improve their position. 

“What drew me to the play, however, is the message it conveys about people surviving and keeping a sense of humour. I loved the intensity of the piece with its silences, its disappointments and its determination to get pleasure out of the smallest things. It gave me hope.”

Stage managed by Em Peattie, Millard’s production will play nightly at 7.30pm, Tuesday to Friday, followed by Saturday shows at 2.30 and 5.30pm. “Ticket sales for our first production indicated that a Saturday matinee was very popular,” says Angie.

“We thought that having two early Saturday performances would give the audience an opportunity to see the show and still have time to go for a drink or meal afterwards, making a night of it.” Box office:

Chris Pomfrett and Victoria Delaney in rehearsal for Beyond Caring

REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Steve Mason, No More Tour, The Crescent, York, December 15, supported by Cobain Jones

Steve Mason’s songwriting: “An unholy mix of the football crowd and the confession chamber”

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.

Steve Mason: “Looking very comfortable in his semi-starlit niche” at The Crescent, York. Picture: Paul Rhodes

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.

Keyboardist Darren Morris accompanying Steve Mason on stage at The Crescent on Thursday night

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

‘It’s about us finding some peace in the eye of the storm,’ says Steve Mason ahead of The Crescent gig and positive new album

Steve Mason: Showcasing new songs off Brothers And Sisters at The Crescent tomorrow

SCOTSMAN Steve Mason has had enough.

Witness his new single, No More, now receiving buckets of airplay on BBC6 Music and providing the punchy title for his tour that stops off at The Crescent, York, tomorrow night (15/12/2022).

“The song’s about a country that has had its Band Aid ripped off to expose a pustule of Government hatred,” says the former Beta Band frontman. “But I feel immigration has brought a massive amount of joy to my life and my country, the whole country, Britain.”

No More, a plea to end to division and find common ground, is the first taster for Brothers And Sisters, Steve’s first album since 2019’s About The Light, recorded and ready for release in March 2023.

Why give the album that title? “Well, number one it’s the last song on the album. All the songs were written in lockdown, but with this one, I was thinking about Ghost Town by The Specials, with that line, ‘All the clubs have been closed down’, and I remember feeling it’s all finished,” says Steve.

“But now, if you were to accelerate forwards 40-odd years to 2022, you’d kill to go back to 1981, which is pretty crazy, in terms of personal freedoms, thinking about how many clubs there were, how you could still have a social life relatively cheaply, even if you were on the dole.

“Now, we just keep taking it and taking it, whatever’s thrown at us, but what I don’t get about this country is: at what point do we say ‘Enough is enough. No more’.”

A decade ago, on his album Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time, Steve had made the point that “we don’t do anything until the problem knocks on the door”. “Well, now it’s knocking on everyone’s door. It used to exclude the middle classes but not anymore,” he says.

“The time is right for change, probably an alternative to democracy and capitalism, when I don’t think we can say we live in a democracy anymore. Now that Boris Johnson can just lie in parliament, that’s not democracy. It’s fake, not real, when politicians are not accountable.”

That said, Steve does not consider Brothers And Sisters to be a political album. “The thing is, I did my political concept album a few years ago. I set out my stall then, and I don’t feel I have to hit people over the head with my songs when I need to remember that music is entertainment,” he says.

“I want people to put my album on after they’ve had a s**t day, so I’ve toned it [the politics] right back down. What the listener brings to the lyrics, how they fit into their life, that matters, because it has to be at least 50 per cent what the listener thinks.

“I want it to be a beautiful record, a positive record. It’s not negative at all. It’s about us finding some peace in the eye of the storm and hopefully finding some clarity when everything’s been deliberately clouded. You have to take a few steps to turn everything off.”

The last time Steve ventured into North Yorkshire, on December 14 last year, he could be found seated alone by a lamp, amid twinkling fairy lights and a Christmas tree, performing at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall.

“This time last year I was playing a lot of village halls, just me on my own,” he recalls, ahead of rolling out Beta Band and solo material with keyboardist Darren Morris by his side at The Crescent tomorrow. “I’ve really gone all out this time!

Steve Mason performing at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, on December 14 2021. Picture: Paul Rhodes

“Darren’s been playing with me for about seven years and he was on the About The Light album. This is a very stripped-out version of what I usually take out on the road, but for this album that I’ve just finished, I’m gonna change from a traditional band format.

“You can now reliably run backing tracks with drums and bass on there and then have people like gospel singers with you. But it’s been really difficult because of two years of no gigs and then a lead-in time of a year for vinyl pressings, so you potentially run into the problem of not touring for another year, but touring this way, with Darren, allows me financially to get to the point of releasing the album.”

Steve wrote Brothers And Sisters at the height of the lockdowns, looking for “some form of spirituality, as we were all were in the pandemic, but not tied to any one religion because people prefer freedom in their spirituality”.

“We must find things that we have in common when we have a government that wants to divide us – and that’s why I want them to fail miserably,” he says. “It’s important to love your fellow man and fellow woman and be aware that the information we’re fed is not always correct.”

Steve talks of striving to be an artist again, having become “somewhat reactionary” on About The Light. “I was just lucky that I realised that at some point I was going to make a record that I didn’t like, my fans didn’t like, or the radio didn’t like,” he says.

“There are elements of that record that I liked, but certainly I was dipping my toe into waters that I wouldn’t want to get any wetter.

“I’d just got married, had a three-month-old daughter, and I was feeling those adult thoughts for the first time, thinking about having to support my family through my art.

“What I’ve now managed to do is decompartmentalise my home life from my working life. I owe it to myself, to anyone who ever bought a record, to everyone who calls themselves an artist, when it’s such a precious position to be in, to be strong and take risks.”

To do so, he must swim against the authoiritarian tide. “For some reason, artists in this country are made to feel like second-class citizens who have to struggle to achieve anything, but opposition to the arts is the sign of a weak government up to no good,” he says.

Now 47, Steve’s career since 1996 has taken in folktronica experimentalists The Beta Band, King Biscuit Time, Black Affair with Jimmy Edgar and four solo albums since 2010 with the fifth upcoming. Along the way, debts led him to work on a building site and he has had struggles with depression too, but marriage and fatherhood, song-writing and performing are his life force now.

“What I would say is that, at the moment, I’m thinking a lot more about the live experience for people and how that will translate into something that’s exciting, energetic and uplifting,” he says.

“I’ve always been a very slow learner, so it takes me a long time to work things out, but on this record, I’ve tried to stretch myself vocally, much more than I’ve ever done before, singing a song in a way that’s more difficult, that requires more effort, when in the past my vocals were quiet.

“Doing something you’ve not done before, going somewhere new in a song, I just feel that the new tracks, when performed live, are head and shoulders above anything I’ve done before – and the audience reaction has been beautiful to see.”

Steve Mason, No More Tour, at The Crescent, York, tomorrow (15/12/2022), supported by Cobain Jones, at 7.30pm . Box office:

More Things To Do In York and beyond to warm the art as temperatures plummet. Hutch’s List No. 109, from The Press

Into The Lights, digital photomontage by Adele Karmazyn, from her Hidden Spaces exhibition at City Screen Picturehouse, York

IT’S beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be the be all and end all of Charles Hutchinson’s list. Except for a bite of comedy, a Scotsman and hidden digital artworks, that is.

Exhibition launch of the week: Adele Karmazyn, Hidden Spaces, City Screen Picturehouse café, York, from Monday to January 14 2023

INSPIRED by this year’s York Unlocked event, York Open Studios regular Adele Karmazyn has embraced the opportunity to visit this historic city’s hidden spaces, taking photographs on the way.

These photos create the backdrop for her new body of work, each piece evolving into an individual story when she brings in her 19th century characters, taken from old cabinet photographs, and combines these with other photographs of objects, landscapes and creatures in her digital photomontages. By merging multiple layers and concentrating on light and depth, Adele creates “realistic, believable scenarios, which at the same time could never possibly be”.

Promenade light for dark nights: Quinn Richards leads the way as Charles Dickens in Be Amazing Arts’ A Christmas Carol in Malton Market Place

Promenade event of the week: Be Amazing Arts in A Christmas Carol, Malton Market Place, until December 24, 7pm nightly (except December 16 and 22); 5pm on Christmas Eve

AFTER a sell-out debut run in 2021, Be Amazing Arts return to Malton Market Place with Rozanna Klimaszewska’s promenade adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in the market town where Dickens himself performed at the long-gone theatre.

Starting out at Kemps General Store, this immersive theatre and dining experience invites you to follow Dickens (Quinn Richards, who also plays Ebenezer Scrooge) as he tells the story and brings to life Dickens’s characters alongside fellow professionals James Rotchell and Kirsty Wolff and Be Amazing’s Young Company. Festive canapes and a warming winter drink are provided by The Cook’s Place. Box office: 01653 917271 or

Mari Christmas: Mari Wilson in festive mood at Selby Town Hall tonight

Have yourself a Mari little Christmas: Mari Wilson, Selby Town Hall, tonight, 8pm

JUST what you always wanted: A Mari Christmas from Neasden’s “Nymphette of Nail Varnish and High Priestess of Hair Spray”, Miss Beehive, songstress Mari Wilson, who will be combining her Eighties’ hits with tunes of Yuletide yesterdays, a Singalong-a-Christmas and seasonal surprises. Dressing up is a must for the complete Wilsational night. Box office: 01757 708449 or

Fresh from Squeeze’s Food For Thought autumn tour, Chris Difford is doing the solo rounds, returning to Selby on Friday. Sold out, alas.

Mostly Autumn: Winter songs at The Crescent

Entirely winter from… Mostly Autumn Christmas Show!, The Crescent, York, Sunday, 8pm (doors 7pm)

YORK prog-rockers Mostly Autumn celebrate Christmas with a standing show at The Crescent, sure to feature For Everyone At Christmastime. Expect hard rock, Celtic themes, traces of trad folk and more contemporary influences too in a set of festive fireworks from Bryan Josh, Olivia Sparnenn-Josh, Angela Gordon and co for devotes of Seventies’ Genesis, Pink Floyd, Camel, Renaissance and Jethro Tull, before they head off to Belgium next week. Box office:

O little voices of Barbican: York’s community carol concert

Christmas institution of the week: York Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, Sunday, 2pm

AFTER 64 years, York’s community carol concert draws in all ages and still plays to full houses. Taking part this time will be York Railway Institute Band; Osbaldwick Primary Academy Choir; St Oswald’s CE Primary School; Stamford Bridge Community Choir and York singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Cassidy. 

Mike Pratt is the musical director, with the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson as the co-hosts, for an afternoon of Christmas carols and songs in aid of the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York’s Christmas Cheer Fund and Martin House Children’s Hospice. Box office:

Rick Wakeman: Re-awakening songs with a Christmas twist and festive flair at York Barbican

More Christmas events at York Barbican: Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol: Live In Concert, Monday, 7pm; Rick Wakeman’s Grumpy Christmas Stocking, Tuesday, 7.30pm; Emma Bunton: The Christmas Show 2022, December 16, 8pm

DISNEY’S The Muppet Christmas Carol, the one with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Michael Caine as stingy Ebenezer Scrooge, Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit, will be accompanied by a live performance of the musical score.

Yes organist Rick Wakeman gives a Yuletide twist to his grand piano and electric keyboard arrangements of songs from his own career and others, plus a few surprises, punctuated by stories.

Emma Bunton spices up her Christmas Party with solo career hits, Spice Girls staples and festive favourites. Box office:

No More, vows Steve Mason, in his tour show at The Crescent, York

Most welcome Scottish visitor of the week: Steve Mason, No More Tour, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

SCOTSMAN Steve Mason is joined by keyboardist Darren Morris on his No More Tour, named after his new single. Melodious material from his Beta Band days and solo catalogue are promised, along with a showcase of songs from Brothers And Sisters, his first album since January 2019’s About The Light, ready for release in 2023. Cobain Jones is the support act. Box office:

Russell Kane: His strain of comedy will keep on running in 2022

Comedy gigs of the week: Russell Kane Live!: The Essex Variant, York Barbican, Wednesday, 8pm; Dara OBriain: So…Where Were We?, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm

MAN Baggage and Evil Genius podcaster, comedian, actor, writer and presenter Russell Kane discusses “the two years we’ve just gone through” in his Essex variant of Covid comedy.

By way of contrast, in his sold-out return, Irishman Dara OBriain will “hardly mention the last year and a half, because, Jesus, who wants to hear about that but will instead fire out the usual mix of stories, one-liners and audience messing”.  Box office: for Kane tickets only,

So…where are you on Tuesday, Dara? At a sold out York Barbican for “the usual mix of stories, one-liners and audience messing”

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

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Plan B doesn’t stop the Christmas buzz. List No. 60, courtesy of The Press, York

CHRISTMAS shows, Christmas concerts, Christmas plays, ‘tis the season for Charles Hutchinson’s diary to be jolly full.  

Jason Manford: “Exercising the old chuckle muscle”

Busy week for comedy: Jason Manford: Like Me, York Barbican, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm.

SALFORD’S Jason Manford revives his funny-bloke-next-door schtick for Like Me, his follow-up to “the fun we had on my last tour”, Muddle Class, a show about turning from working class to middle class that played York Barbican in February and October 2018.

“In these trying times, it’s always important to be able to get away for a couple of hours and exercise the old chuckle muscle,” reckons Manford, 40, who has tickets available for both nights at

Meanwhile, Jack Dee’s Off The Telly gig, moved from April 25 2020 to tomorrow night, has sold out. So too have Alan Carr’s Regional Trinket shows on December 18 and 19.

Filey Brigg, seascape, by Rosie Dean at Village Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: Rosie Dean, Seascapes, Village Gallery, Castlegate, York, until January 22, open 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

SEASCAPE artist Rosie Dean has taken part in York Open Studios for the past ten years. Now she is exhibiting at Simon Main’s Village Gallery through the winter months.

“I feel total peace breathing the ozone, staring out to sea and focusing on the horizon line, sensing all around me and feeling the elements around me, the sights and sounds, the salt in the air. Pure contentment,” says Rosie.

Levellers: Part of York Barbican’s busy week for concerts. Picture: Steve Gullick

Curiosity concert of the week: The Magical Music Of Harry Potter Live In Concert With The Weasleys, York Barbican, Monday 8pm.

POTTY about Potter? Then exit those Shambles shops and head to York Barbican for a night of music from Harry’s films and the West End musical, performed by the London Symphonic & Philharmonic Film Orchestra with the Weasley brothers in tow.

Original actors, magic, star soloists, a choir and the orchestra combine in the debut European tour’s programme of John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicolas Hooper and Alexander Desplat’s soundtrack magical moments, plus selections from the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child score. 

More music in York Barbican’s crammed pre-Christmas diary comes from Levellers, Brighton’s folk-rock stalwarts, tonight and Steve Steinman’s tribute show, Anything For Love: The Meat Loaf Story, on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm. Box office:

Steve Mason: Solo gig at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall

If you seek out one gig, make it: Steve Mason, Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, Tuesday, doors, 8pm; start, 8.30pm.

STEVE Mason was the frontman of The Beta Band, cult Scottish exponents of folktronica, a blend of folk, psychedelia, electronica, experimental rock and trip hop.

He first dipped his toe into solo work on Black Gold, his mournful 2006 album under the guise of the short-lived King Biscuit Time and has since released Boys Outside in 2010, Ghosts Outside with Dennis Bovell in 2011, Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time in 2013, Meet The Humans in 2016 and About The Light in 2019.

Presented by All Off The Beaten Track, Mason will play solo on Tuesday. Box office:

The poster for The Arts Barge Christmas Party! at The Crescent, York

Christmas jamboree of the week: The Arts Barge Christmas Party!, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm.

THREE York community musical groups, Bargestra, The Stonegate Singers and The Blind Tiger Dance Band, unite for the Arts Barge Christmas bash.

Bargestra, the 20-piece Arts Barge band skippered by Christian Topman, play jazz, swing, Beatles, ska and more. The Stonegate Singers, a community choir open to anyone, is directed by Jon Hughes, who teaches the music by ear, one part at a time, so that anyone can do it.

The Blind Tiger Dance Band, Arts Barge’s 16-piece Lindy Hop swing band with Rinkadon Dukeboy up front, brings together seasoned professionals and rising young instrumentalists. All three groups will join together to make a 50-piece ensemble for the festive finale.

Recommended but alas sold out already at The Crescent are Christmas shows by Mostly Autumn on Sunday and fellow York band The Howl & The Hum on Wednesday, both at 7.30pm.

Chapter House Choir at the double: Carols by Candlelight, York Minster, Wednesday; Festival of Carols, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 18, both at 7.30pm.

THE Chapter House Choir’s Carols by Candlelight at York Minster has sold out, but a second chance to hear the York choir and its bell ringers comes at St Michael-le-Belfrey.

Tickets for a Festival of Carols are available via Eventbrite,  but do hurry because they are limited in number and selling fast.

Danny Mellor and Meg Matthews in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Global warming alert of the week: Badapple Theatre Company in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7pm; Green Hammerton Village Hall, December 20, 2pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has revived artistic director Kate Bramley’s magical eco-fable, The Snow Dancer, for its latest rural tour.

Bramley’s original story blends festive family entertainment with an important eco-message and an original score by Jez Lowe, as actors Meg Matthews and Danny Mellor tell the story of the animals of The Great Wood, who are desperate for a long sleep, but find it too warm because something is awry.

The intrepid heroes in this fairy tale with a furry tail must search for the mysterious Snow Dancer to make it snow if they are ever to sleep. Box office: York, 01904 501935 or at; Green Hammerton, 01423 339168.

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s artwork for A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness

Christmas plays of the week: York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust in A Nativity For York…Out Of The Darkness, Spurriergate Centre, Spurriergate, York, December 17, 7pm; December 18, 2pm, 4pm, 6.30pm. A Christmas Carol, Mansion House, York, December 17 to 19, 7pm.

TERRY Ram directs the second York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust community production for Christmas, drawn from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays in the old church atmosphere of the Spurriergate Centre. Box office:

The Penny Magpie Theatre Company, from York, have sold out all three Mansion House performances of director Samantha Hindman’s adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, a version seen through the eyes of modern-day schoolboy Jon, who is gradually welcomed into Scrooge’s redemptive tale. Carols, mince pies, mulled wine and a house tour complete the festive experience.

Freedom is…Johannes Radebe’s debut tour show at at the Grand Opera House, York, next spring

Leaping into 2022: Johannes Radebe, Freedom, Grand Opera House, York, April 12, 7.30pm.

MAKING swish waves with baker John Whaite in Strictly Come Dancing’s first all-male coupling, South African dancer Johannes Radebe has announced his debut tour, Freedom.

Radebe will lead a company of dancers in classic Ballroom and Latin arrangements, scorching South African rhythms and huge party anthems, as he takes you on his journey from growing up in Zamdela, to travelling the world, winning competitions and becoming a Strictly professional.

Leave your inhibitions at the door and get ready for a night of energy, passion and freedom,” he says. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at