Live Review

Steve Mason, King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

Something just doesn’t quite click tonight.

If Steve Mason’s recent ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’ long player reconnects him to the excitement and originality of The Beta Band, this gig in front of a packed out King Tuts doesn’t really represent that aspect of his work. The political awareness and swagger of the record don’t shine through tonight. Admittedly he apologies early on for having caught a cold, and his guitarist does appear to have come dressed as Steve Zissou… but something just doesn’t quite click tonight.

The crowd - a forest of blokes in their late 30s, many dead ringers for Mason himself - are appreciative enough and obviously familiar with his recent work. ‘Lost & Found’ from ‘Boys Outside’ has a dark lyrical content belied by the loose rhythm provided by Mason’s hand held shaker, and a lot of the songs follow this route, the crowd nodding along with his simian shuffle.

‘Oh My Lord’ has a baggy groove as good as anything from The Beta Band years, Mason’s aesthetic seems to have come full circle but it seems less chaotic now, less oblique, frankly, it’s less fun. He takes up an acoustic and announces the next single ‘A Lot Of Love’, commenting that “Nae fuck will buy it.” When the audience responds loudly, he wonders if they’re cheering him or the format in general; whatever happens selling singles “Won’t keep me in Lemsip.”

Any hints of the record’s hip-hop sensibility are stripped out, the idiosyncrasies and samples are all but absent. It sounds too pedestrian, the post-Britpop band format lacking much punch. ‘Boys Outside’’s blend of ordinary and extraordinary veers tonight towards the mundane and even the Floyd-y atmospherics of ‘All Come Down’ seem to get lost in the claustrophobically full room.

‘Fight Them Back’ has the same shuffle beat that has been heard all night, and despite being an album highlight and gaining audience approval, it doesn’t lift the fug. What on record is the response to a riot, here sounds stifling and too cosy. King Biscuit Time’s ‘C I Am 15’ sounds more tribal but loses its electro guts and misses the dancehall stylings of Topcat that made the original so inventive. ‘More Money, More Fire’ pits political angst against the now familiar shuffle groove and ‘Come To Me’, Monkey Minds’ closer, has a languid feel.

Inevitably a Beta Band fan will compare everything to the touchstones of their early works which cast a very long shadow over everything Mason produces, he doesn’t seem to have much nostalgia for that period, but it’s hard to leave it behind without something sufficiently stimulating to replace it.

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