I have a definite soft spot for the Beta Band, Mason’s nineties success, who disappeared in a cloud of rumours of bankruptcy and mental illness. I thought that was sad, and although I haven’t followed him closely, the most recent album Meet The Humans made me sit up and pay attention again. So I made sure I was in The Good Spot (just to the right of the stage) for this gig.
Mason arrived all swagger and confidence, exactly as I wasn’t expecting, dressed like something from Mad Max, in a storm of fast-strummed guitars and toe-tapping, infectious keyboards.
The things that made us all fall for Mason’s bittersweet song-writing so long ago are still here. Strong, jangly pop melodies, introspective lyrics reflecting the tiny struggles of everyday life with a tinge of psychedelic eccentricity.
The newer tracks (Planet Sizes, Alive) go down well, as does the older material, and closing song Words In My Head is a confident, sprawling epic bringing a surprisingly rich and accomplished set to a satisfying end.
“The government hate you, but I love you!” Mason calls, amongst other endearingly earnest and entirely correct political outbursts. Fight Them Back is a perfect call to arms for the oppressed masses, and indicative of what one can do with a little wisdom and perspective. What a hero!
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. This sounds exactly like the Beta Band grown up. And by grown up I emphatically do not mean tweed and elbow pads and a sensible bedtime, I mean mature, subtle, deep and unpretentious.
If you’re on the fence then trust me: this new material is pretty good stuff, but it works ten times better live.
A version of this review first appeared at fringereview.co.uk