Gig review: Steve Mason, Liquid Room, Edinburgh

A FIFER-BY-UPBRINGING, Steve Mason has a genial and down-to-earth way of refusing a free pint being enthusiastically offered by a fan in the front row.

Steve Mason is a man for all seasons  except summer. Picture: Ryan Warburton
Steve Mason is a man for all seasons  except summer. Picture: Ryan Warburton

Steve Mason | Rating: **** | Liquid Room, Edinburgh

“I used to be a car mechanic and I always think, would it be acceptable to turn up to the garage pissed?” he said, before spreading his arms wide to indicate the crowd. “Besides – the boss is here!” It was a polite “no thanks,” but it also summed up the egalitarian spirit of Mason’s live show; he was here for us, not the other way around.

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On Meet the Humans, his recently-released third solo album under his own name, Mason has emphasised this sense of peaceful communality with a set of gently spirited acoustic hymns to finding your way through the human condition - a marked counterpoint to the prickly political edge of 2013’s Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time. His most successful release yet, it inspired a packed crowd here.

There was something modestly working-class heroic about Mason, his sludgy green hooded coat thrown off midway through the set (“I’m a man for all seasons – except summer”) to reveal braces 
and a woollen shirt to go with the puttees on his legs – a proper First World War vintage look.

Clutching a guitar for most of the show and backed by an analogue band (the sampled strings on Monkey Minds still thrillingly confrontational Fight Them Back being an obvious exception), the boundary-pushing of his old group the Beta Band has been replaced by a real emotional fluency on new tracks like Alive (dedicated to a friend without whom “I wouldn’t be here”) and the confidently affirmative closer Words in My Head.