REVIEW: Steve Mason, Riverside, Newcastle

Steve Mason.
Steve Mason.

Tired, sober and rarely convenient, Monday nights are far from the prime time to stage a gig. Every now and then, though, you get a show which suits their weary vibe to a tee.

That was the case when Steve Mason brought his latest solo tour to Newcastle's Riverside.

Once the lead singer of The Beta Band, the Edinburgh-based artist's songs have garnered near-universal acclaim for almost two decades, and are hardly the type you'd adorn with the dreaded "easy listening" tag.

Nevertheless, his three-and-a-half minute nuggets were a perfect remedy for Monday night blues, requiring neither effort not histrionics to lure one in on a dark, damp autumnal evening.

The inevitable flatness had sadly already proved an issue for opener Barry Hyde.

The ex-Futureheads man overcame his awkward start, delivering a stirring set based around his recent solo album Malody, which delves into his struggles since being diagnosed as bipolar.

Even for a local favourite, the decision to open with a theatrical five-song suite was bold in the extreme, and was enough in itself to earn his belated ovation.

For what it's worth, Steve Mason's performance also kicked off in decidedly low-key fashion.

Lush and polished on record, the majority of tonight's numbers were presented in pared-down form - the Scot perched on a stool with his acoustic guitar, backed only by the standard bass and drums.

It's true that some key changes lacked their usual potency, yet this reduction served largely to highlight the universality of his hyper-melodic pop writing, with the title track to 2010's solo debut Boys Outside an early standout.

It wasn't until the halfway mark that the stool made way, and this upping of the ante saw him turn in three of his finest in A Lot of Love, Planet Sizes and Alive; vibrant, technicolour anthems the likes of which he's long since made his signature.

The latter pair feature on his rapturously received latest album Meet The Humans, and it felt significant that they were among the best received all night.

Another new cut, Hardly Go Through, was aired as the first encore, and finally saw the singer plug in his electric guitar.

A glorious personal highlight, its climatic, cathartic tone simply couldn't have been achieved with the prior arrangement, and much the same could be said of closing gambit Dry The Rain.

One of three Beta Band cuts performed on the night, the opening track of their debut EP acted as a gateway for many into Mason's music - thanks in no small part to its endorsement in the cult film High Fidelity.

Much like the scene in question, its finale lit up the room and sparked pure euphoria, and I've no doubt I'm not alone in still having it spiralling in my head hours later.

Moreover, it - and the 70-odd preceding minutes - sent his audience into the rest of the week with a spring in their step, an alagamism of warmth, humour and perfect melody which couldn't have been more welcome.