It is not often that an artist can effortlessly control an atmosphere and create a euphoric experience for a crowd of people. Steve Mason does exactly that in the blue-lit, smoky basement of Liverpool’s Arts Club. He manages to calm a rowdy audience, who are evidently eager to hear songs from Mason’s Beta Band days, with tender and upbeat tracks from his solo career. His own work captivates the audience as much as the familiarity of Beta Band’s ‘Dr. Baker’ and ‘Dry The Rain’. His latest album, Meet The Humans, which has been described as his ‘solo creative peak’ by Q Magazine, offers sentimental lyrics and joyous beats that inspire the feeling of sweet contentment.
Mason is immediately likeable as he sits down and announces with a sigh that he’s left his ‘fucking glasses in the dressing room’, and he picks up and squints at the set list throughout the evening. He engages the audience with a self-deprecating humour and witty stage presence and we are off to a peaceful start. Opening with ‘Am I Just A Man’, ‘Oh My Lord’ and ‘All Come Down’, Mason tenderly delivers the catchy, slow lyrics that complement repetitive folk rhythms. He sits gently strumming the acoustic guitar whilst the drums are brushed softly, creating a melancholy groove and a slow sway from the crowd in front. The vibe is slow and easy but Arts Club is absolutely rammed and still rumbling. Mason politely asks for some quiet whilst he performs a stripped back version of ‘Boys Outside’, and as he begins to play the audience willingly oblige. Reminiscent of Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Mason’s soft yet astonishing vocals and gentle guitar holds and hushes his listeners.
Although the three piece band achieves thoughtful acoustics, they surprise us with funky, fast-paced, energetic beats that sound almost too powerful to be coming from only three musicians. The crowd rejoices and exchanges knowing glances upon hearing Beta Band’s ‘Dogs Got A Bone’, and then the pace quickens for Mason’s newer and poppier tracks. ‘Planet Sizes’ and ‘Alive’ deliver an encouragement of self-examination and questioning of our surroundings. The songs themselves are warm and optimistic and readily welcomed by the encouraging crowd that dances to their triumphant finales. Mason succeeds in raising his Arts Club audience into a joyous frenzy of festival-like communion.
The set appropriately closes on a high note with ‘Dry The Rain’, offering both nostalgia and security as Mason graciously sings out, ‘if there’s something inside that you want to say / say it out loud it’ll be okay / I will be your light’. Happiness is clearly the theme of the evening. Mason delivers the exciting and musically rich set with a genuine gratitude for the audience before him. His uplifting performance is finished off with a heartfelt applause as he exits the stage.
6th October 2016
Steve Mason – Arts Club, Liverpool