Steve Mason – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, 25/04/16 1

Steve Mason – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, 25/04/16

Decked out in khaki fatigues and sporting dark, tinted goggles the man stood before us could be just about anyone or anything. He could be the leader of a Himalayan mountaineering expedition, a scout master, a Desert Rat or, as he suggests to us later on, an Arctic explorer. But he is, in fact, the Scots musician Steve Mason, a man who was one of the founding members of the remarkably successful yet ultimately financially ruinous The Beta Band and who has also performed under the individual guises of King Biscuit Time and Black Affair. Reassuringly he tells a packed, sell-out Leeds crowd that he has come in peace.

With a wry smile on his face Mason says that tonight he is going to take us through his illustrious back catalogue, adding “well, over the last five years, anyway”, immediately putting to rest any suggestion that this will be an exercise in shameless nostalgia for The Beta Band. This statement in itself says much for Mason’s current positivity and the confidence he now has in his own remarkable abilities, choosing as he does to concentrate instead on the three solo albums he has released under his own name.

Steve Mason

The fulcrum of Mason’s set is the most recent of these records, the rather excellent Meet The Humans. Packed to the gunwales with some really top tunes, the album sees Mason musically liberated from the dark isolation of his past demons and cementing his reputation as a songwriter of quite unfathomable depth. In concert, these songs become even more alive as he and his brilliant band – he introduces them as being “like a line-up on acid” – express themselves across a big, bold and very broad spectrum of sound that stretches all the way from Brighton to Ibiza.

Mason concedes that trying to integrate the recently departed Prince’s ‘1999’ into tonight’s set was a step too far – joking that bass guitarist Bodge didn’t even know who Prince was – but quirky contagious indie-pop, proto-psychedelia, redemptive folk, funk, dub, contemporary call-to-arms (the truly rousing penultimate number ‘Fight Them Back’) and transcendental celebratory club music as is heard on the euphoric finale of ‘Word In My Head’ are all well within Steve Mason and his band’s vast musical compass. Leaving the Belgrave Music Hall tonight with a huge collective spring in our step, you sense that this evening’s performance has been a great emotional triumph for Mason and his audience alike.

Photo credit: Simon Godley

More photos from this show can be found here

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