Steve Mason @ SWG3, Glasgow, 31 Jan

With little room for oldies tonight, the former Beta Band frontman Steve Mason plays a strong set at SWG3 celebrating his latest album About the Light

Live Review by Chris McCall | 07 Feb 2019

We’ve gathered at SWG3 tonight to watch the former frontman of a legendary 90s alternative band. While most are here for Steve Mason, the support act is a rare performance (in Glasgow, anyway) from Edgar Jones, aka Edgar Summertyme, aka the creative driving force behind cult Liverpool beat rockers The Stairs.

Sure, the majority of the crowd have probably never heard of him, but with a powerful voice that would have impressed the original Delta bluesmen, he’s sure to have won a few converts tonight. Armed with just an acoustic, he delivers an energetic rendition of Weed Bus – his pro-cannabis anthem that, in light of sweeping legalisation throughout the west, now sounds a couple of decades ahead of its time.

While Jones makes do with just one guitar, Steve Mason has the luxury of employing what must rank as his most impressive solo band to date. With a new album – the excellent About the Light – to promote, and the belief of leading indie label Domino behind him, the Fifer is armed and ready to go over the top in his latest battle to win popular acclaim for his considerable songwriting talents.

On lead guitar is Barrie Cadogan, known to all as Little Barrie, a sideman with some serious pedigree, having toured with everyone from Primal Scream to The The: "Where we spent the bulk of the budget," deadpans Mason as introduces his band. Cadogan and co sound great on set opener Stars Around My Heart, one of the highlights on About the Light, which showcases Mason’s vocals at their best. "Don’t worry, there’s a Fifer at the controls," Mason jokes to the amusement of what still ranks as a home crowd for him. Many of those here will have no doubt seen him at least half-a-dozen times over the years, stretching back to his Beta Band days.

But Mason’s solo career is a considerable body of work in its own right. Planet Sizes remains a highlight from his last record, while a rare outing for Oh My Lord, from 2013’s Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time, is welcome. There’s no room however for numerous other Mason highlights, Lost and Found and Fight Them Back being just two of his best-loved anthems which go unplayed.

Yet when you have new songs as strong as Spanish Brigade and Walking Away From Love, sometimes there’s just no time for oldies. Steve Mason is in a hurry to move forward and show off his new album. And quite right too.