Leeds was the first show to sell out on Steve Mason’s latest UK tour.
Perhaps, as he told the audience at Belgrave Music Hall, he should have booked two nights. Or a residency. With matinees. Or even “Breakfast with Steve Mason”. The fact is, after a musical career lasting more than two decades, the soulful Scottish singer certainly has the material, the form and the following.
As frontman of alternative favourites The Beta Band, Mason helped create some of the most exciting and inventive British music of the late 90s. After a decade characterised by Oasis and Blur’s differing versions of Sixties nostalgia, The Beta Band produced some stunningly high-grade folk electronica. Listen to the monumental psychedelia of It’s Not Too Beautiful if you want a prime example. But after three or so albums, their star had faded and Mason went off on his own.
But the electro flavour of his Black Affair project had the effect of alienating his remaining fanbase, so Mason dashed out Boys Outside on the acoustic guitar, an exquisitely melancholic song that would become the centrepiece of his first solo album, a beautiful but sad collection of work from a man who has lived with depression.
Mason has since found happiness, which is why he didn’t want to play any songs from that painful period in his life. Instead, he and his band delivered a tight, punchy and sometimes euphoric set, largely based on his new album, About the Light, which is full of uncomplicated songs with big uplifting choruses.
He did delve into Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time which he introduced as his “million-selling proto-anarchist concept album”. In the post-copyright streaming era, it is pleasing to hear that Mason’s unique and occasionally challenging talent is generating good returns. We shall look forward to his residency.