Part of the Celtic Connections programme but promoted independently of the main events, this event saw Edinburgh combo Redolent open for Scottish expatriate Steve Mason.
The five piece (keyboards, drums, beats, guitar/keyboard and lead vocals) played a selection of tracks mainly from their forthcoming album ‘Dinny Greet’, out in May. With multiple things being banged (drums, cymbals etc) the tracks come somewhere between indierock and something more like techno, with songs like ‘Make Big Money Fast Online’ fairly zipping with energy as frontman Robin hops, jumps and bounces his way around the stage.
There are references to dead-end jobs, mental health issues and the buzz of being on a trip with pals in tracks like ‘Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen To Me’ and most recent single ‘Just Trying To Relax’ while the title track from the album reminds BM of The Twilight Sad at their more synth-led, with Robin’s voice at times plaintive, almost Robert Smith-like while the rest of the band play their hearts out behind him.
The guitar lines are slightly Afrobeat, or possible Foals-esque while the whole thing is backed by some shuddering drumming and bass beats. The band are BM faves and this was a convincing performance after a good but marred by tech problems at Connect last summer – the crowd tonight were well into it, and there were a smattering of devotees at the front. Tipped by multiple sources in Scotland and UK-wide and receiving good radio play, catch them before they start selling out venues, which based on this may be sooner rather than later.
After a bit of a break the main act started slightly surprisingly. Steve Mason, having been resident in Englandshire for quite some time, must be missing the old country, as his pal Jonny appeared in the pulpit of this deconsecrated church in full Highland dress and gave a rousing blast of full bagpipe magic, to cheers from the crowd.
The band then took the stage and launched into mainly material from the most recent album ‘Brothers and Sisters’, laced with some older material. With Steve on vocals, and at times alternating between acoustic and electric guitar, and also hitting a few things on several tracks, plus Kayleigh on drums and Darren on piano, keyboards and a few other things, the sound was big enough to do justice to these often anthemic songs.
Steve’s vocals were bang on and he used his soft but expressive tones to good effect, starting with the defiant ‘No More”‘ from the new record. ‘I’m On My Way'” was another rousing recent track from an album which explores among other things ethnicity and post-colonialism. At times BM did think the show could have benefitted from having more musicians to bulk out the sound and reproduce some of the more World Music sounds on ‘B&S’ but times are tough, touring is expensive and the three players onstage certainly worked overtime for their part.
‘Fox On The Rooftop’ from older record ‘About tThe Light’ was one of the standouts but there were only a couple of older solo tracks from his pretty lengthy career (15 years and six albums under his own name, two albums more that The Beta Band). We did get a couple of Beta Band tracks including ‘Dry The Rain’ and (did it screw up their career due to that delayed sample clearance?) ‘Squares’ before an encore of previous solo single ‘I Walk The Earth’ and a final ‘The People Say’ from the new record (he tried to get a singalong going with this one but with a somewhat older audience on a schoolday it didn’t amount to much).
Mason pretty much filled the venue tonight and the new material was often impressive – BM maybe sees him as a parallel to Ian Brown, whose solo career took a few interesting turns in terms musicians and producers he worked with (and Steve is a far better live singer, ok that wouldn’t be difficult…) but whose fans are maybe still keener to hear him doing the early stuff with that legendary band. BM applauds Steve’s efforts to forge his own way in this increasingly tough and finance-starved industry (the refrain of ‘No-one said it was gonna be easy’ on ‘Travelling Hard’ was pretty heartfelt, BM thought) and with his years away, for flying the Scottish flag.