steve mason– GORILLA, MANCHESTER –

Well, well, well, what do we have here then? Gorilla is tuning its dial towards a club night. I think this is my first gig preamble that feels more like post gig excitement. Bouncy, upbeat tunes and a nugget of Fool’s Gold cracked out before the main man gets on stage. This is gig foreplay turned on its head. Thanks Mr DJ I like it.

Gorilla for the uninitiated is a fairly new(ish) venue added to Whitworth Street, run by the folk behind The Deaf Institute, Trof. They’re showing their experience off making the bar area pretty packed for a mid week and booking a decent roster of musicians from Ghostpoet to tonight’s sold out ticket, Steve Mason. We’ve got a spare and manage to sell it a note up on the asking price.

The ex-Beta Band man chose his Manchester host wisely, playing to a snug enough venue to make it a sort after event. This tour is a short one playing more intimate venues before flying off to the US at the end of the month. Gorilla is now heaving… Come on Steve it’s quarter past 9, we’re ready for you. After the wait and a dance the anticipation bursts into cheers. He’s on. You could be mistaken for thinking he’s a good looking Manc. Yes Steve we know you’re Scottish. There must be something similar going on in the musical gene pools between Edinburgh and here.

I can’t quite explain why but there’s a vibe tonight that’s similar to a homecoming gig. “Wow there’s such a good mood here,” announces Mr Mason. Course there is. We’re excited to see you. Things kick off with the gorgeously haunting ’Lost and Found.’ The crowd are right behind every word. Confidence is bristling and it’s a solid start. Next is ’Oh My Lord,’ my personal favourite from his latest album ’Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time.’ There’s something of a signature knack coming through in this song. As a lyricist Steve has crafted this album expertly. Without sentimentality you just want to join in and belly sing it out. It’s beautifully uplifting and heartfelt.

’Lot of Love’ is introduced with coy admission of being a love song of sorts. We’re listening to the story of the song and it’s becoming clear there’s a tension of direction and feelings in this man’s creativity. “Is there a lot left for me? I just don’t know…” If I’m pushed to say what Mr Mason is about in a couple of words it would be reflective and a fighter.

The softer mood is broken with a Frankie Boyle joke.

“Did ya hear the costs for Thatcher’s funeral? £10 million quid. Frankie reckons if you pay every Scot a pound, we’ll buy a spade each and dig a massive hole big enough!”

A big cheer. An even bigger one for the anticipated play of ’Boys Outside.’ It’s one of those songs that really understated. Stripped back to virtually just piano and vocals. I don’t know what this one is about exactly but it’s one of those songs that feels lived in. Nothing’s overtly stated, spun out or deliberately emotionally heightened. There’s mastery in his writing that comes from a place of having been there, seen it and recovered or survived. Elegant and honest songwriting.

Other highlights include ’All come down,’ ’Am I Just a Man,’ and ’Fight Them Back,’ with a massive roar for the bassist’s anarchy flag. As music fans, generally speaking, we’re the kids of the playlist, happy to jump from song to artist and be the curators of our own musical experiences. I think Steve Mason stands as an artist quite the antithesis to this. There’s a story to sit down and listen to chapter by chapter. Tonight’s show is a foretaste of an already stand out album of the year. If you haven’t already bought it get ’Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time.’ You’ll be reminded of a major song writing talent and be relieved to know people do still write albums that you’ll want to listen to all the way through. Many times.

I'm an indie kid at heart, with a soft spot for thoughtful electronica and a guilty love of pure pop. A break up in the early noughties with a foppish haired 'all about the guitars' boy caused my musical path to diverge out towards Mr Scruff, Ministry of Sound and dance pleasures beyond. Highlights from this year's musical calendar include Sounds From the Other City, Badly Drawn Boy at the Ten album launch, Bjork at MI and when Elbow came home.I design and illustrate so I'm continually perfecting the ultimate work soundtrack to get ideas going: daytime People I'd still like to see: Imogen Heap, Jason Mraz, Brett Anderson and Ghostpoet.Follow me on Twiiter -!/rachaelkearney