Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Review of Steve Mason at The Ritz in Manchester on November 2, 2013

There can be few better ways to celebrate Manchester City's first top-flight 7-0 win since 1968 than by enjoying a couple of cheeky Unicorns at the Briton's Protection before heading to The Ritz for some soulful Scottish rabble-rousing.

Steve Mason's face-punching new album, Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time, is almost certainly the only one this year to feature quotations from both Dante and Tony Blair. It hints at dark political arts, hypocrisy and a sinister establishment squeezing the pips out of Britain until it honks.

As poetic as Elbow and as strident as a student sit-in, Steve's lyrics scuff with snout and paw while his melodies drift along like Beta Band lullabies. He's at his best when he's bobbing like Boz, tambourine in one hand, bongo stick in the other, piano chords plonking away stage right, urging innocent bystanders to, "Get up and fight them back, with a fist, a boot and a baseball bat."

Some of the more wistful album tracks may have killed the vibe a bit when played live but not for long when there's Steve's Fight The Power shipyard rhetoric between songs and killer melodies like Come To Me to tingle-up the evening with kitchens full of distinction.

Colin kept hoping Steve would surprise us with an impromptu version of Beta Band favourite Dry the Rain, Marco kept telling everyone it'd get going in a minute (one drum kit too few for him) but Guy and I had a great nodding along to a hugely original 90-minute set.

Alarmingly, Steve left it to Blair to have the last word on the night with the sample on gig-closer Fight Them Back: "The thing about Libya, it's potentially a goldmine of a country."

So with Bambi ringing in our ears, we scuttled out into the Manchester drizzle and headed back to the pub before sleeping with the flowers in mile and miles of Albert Squares.

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