Live Review: Steve Mason – Academy 2, Manchester

The former Beta Band frontman Steve Mason brought his unique indie-folk stylings to the frankly Baltic Manchester this weekend and did not disappoint. The tour comes off the back of Mason’s latest album, the brilliantly personal About The Light.

The show started with the lead single Stars Around My Heart. Mason emerged onto the stage wearing a golden cape and brandishing a glowing tambourine, like a wild cross between Freddy Mercury and Liam Gallagher, if the latter had spent the last twenty years above a Wetherspoons crafting slightly off kilter psychedelic folk. Improbably, the look, and the show itself, all worked perfectly with no real explanation as to how.

The weirdness of Steve’s cape and the coldness of the venue meant the band and crowd took a little time to warm up. But it wasn’t long before the sheer energy that Mason brings to the stage convinced the crowd to ditch their big coats and get into the groove.

There is something about Mason’s sound that brings out a unique dance move, and me and my fellow patrons were soon participating in the same weird ‘chin dance’, which involves rolling your shoulders and nodding your chin forward in time with the music. Impossible to describe. Even harder to explain. But dammit, it works!

Mason has always been something of a musical enigma and his live show is no exception. The backing band attested to this, looking like a mixture of rockabilly, northern folk and acid house performers all flanking the irrepressible frontman who’s relentless movement was completely infectious.

It’s that incredible energy that propelled some of the slower numbers, like America Is Your Boyfriend, into a new, almost stadium rock area. Seeing Mason and his backing band in full flow really begged the question, why does the album not have the same restless hypnotism as the live show? It is something of a backhanded compliment that the newer material went down so well that it has made me re-assess whether the new album is as good as I first thought. The live delivery really does make you feel you’re seeing someone at the absolute top of their game, even so long into such a distinguished and diverse career.

The encore opened with possibly Mason’s most “mainstream” sounding song Walking Away From Love and this was where the swagger setting went into overdrive. Mason finished the last three songs parading the stage like the Hacienda personified. But the wonky nature of his music and sheer strangeness of some of the sounds kept the gig from straying into generic rock n’ roll.

At 44, Steve Mason continues to be one of the most innovative solo artists touring and his mixture of high energy, high concept delivery makes for a truly exhilarating live show.

Tom Mellor

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