Gig review: Steve Mason at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
'I'm prepared to fall off the stage for fashion!' declares Steve Mason as he readjusts his tinted goggles.
His eyewear, part of an Edwardian Arctic explorer costume, may be removed a short time later but the Scottish singer-songwriter continues to successfully reconnoiter the outer edges of psych-folk.
It’s an area he first explored as a founding member of The Beta Band. Where the cult act tended to fuse folktronica with sub-ambient jamming, his solo records have been more song based. Combining folk, dub and electronica his three albums have nonetheless demonstrated a firm commitment to continued experimentation.
During tonight’s set, in support of this year’s critically acclaimed Meet The Humans, he’s decided to strip back the arrangements and reinvent himself as a modern-day troubadour.
Backed by a four-piece band (described as ‘a line up on acid’) he adopts a similarly melancholic and hushed tone as King Creosote on the likes of ‘Seen It All Before’ and ‘Ran Away’. At other moments, as on ‘Like Water’, he gets close to creating the kind of bittersweet anthem that Noel Gallagher has forgotten how to write.
These tracks leave behind the lyrical theme of depression that occupied his earlier albums but he still regularly references falling apart and insecurities.
This is contrary to his confident, witty stage presence and the joyous tone of his more playful material. The pre-programmed brass that underpins ‘Fire’, for instance, is almost funky while Bodge’s dub-inflected bassline on ‘Never Be Alone’ and the use of woozy melodica on ‘Alive’ make them eminently danceable.
He closes the 90-minute set the only way he could, with the extended hip-hop breakbeat of ‘Words In My Head’. “Please don’t ever listen to the words I say,” he repeats with typical, best to be ignored self-deprecation.