It does­n’t sur­prise me that Steve Mason forged a last­ing con­nec­tion with Joe Dud­dell at Fes­ti­val No 6. Each year, a select­ed num­ber of main-stage artists col­lab­o­rate with Dud­dell and his ensem­ble, per­form­ing in the tiny Port­meiri­on Town Hall (queues for these are leg­endary, as only around 100 get access to the space). From what I’ve heard there isn’t much time for rehearsal, how­ev­er Dud­dell has a fine sense for what can be achieved, work­ing with sub­tle­ty and vision with the artists.

Alive! sees Mason at the Bar­bi­can hall for one night only, with his own band, plus the Joe Dud­dell ensem­ble, brass sec­tion, three female back­ing singers… this was cer­tain­ly an ambi­tious project. If Mason was feel­ing a tad over­awed he cer­tain­ly hid it well, bound­ing on stage in relaxed fashion. 

Steve Mason alive mug

The evening was a ret­ro­spec­tive, tak­ing in ear­li­er work with Beta Band to lat­est album Meet the Humans. This lat­est work was the focus of the first part of the show, with Mason’s band: Elliot King on gui­tar, bassist Steve Duffield, drum­mer Greg Niel­son and Dar­ren Mor­ris on keyboards. 

The open­er was an extend­ed ver­sion of It’s Not too Beau­ti­ful which, from where I was seat­ed, sound­ed a tad unbal­anced. After that, every­thing flowed togeth­er – Mason, the musi­cians and audi­ence all float­ed along togeth­er on what felt like a unique jour­ney. Alive sound­ed joy­ous and exhil­a­rat­ing – a mes­sage that Mason is now in a good place; Hard­ly go Through was ele­vat­ed by the string sec­tion, bring­ing out the song’s warmth and emo­tion. Com­fort­able though the audi­to­ri­um was, as the gig gath­ered momen­tum, some audi­ence mem­bers looked as if they were ready to get up and dance; instead we all stayed polite­ly in our seats, nod­ding along to the songs.

Festival No 6 2014 programme page

The sec­ond half of the evening opened with Mason and Joe Dud­del­l’s ensem­ble per­form­ing mate­r­i­al from Fes­ti­val No 6. It was won­der­ful to hear the heart-wrench­ing Dr Bak­er, and the plain­tive beau­ty of All Come Down sound­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive with the harp accompaniment. 

As the evening neared its con­clu­sion, the open­ing notes of Dry the Rain reached our ears, and the audi­ence rose to their feet as one, arms wav­ing in the air. I Walk the Earth closed this fan­tas­tic, uplift­ing and unique evening. 

Steve Mason Alive Barbican


Event: Steve Mason Alive! at the Barbican Hall

Date: January 27th, 2017


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