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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
ULU, London - Friday April 22nd, 2005 - by Nick Morgan
Willy Mason   Hot news music lovers! Singer songwriters are back in fashion. – and it’s big business. Over the past few weeks Polydor have thrown a small fortune in the direction of their PR machine on behalf of Rufus Wainwright (son of his famous dad Loudon III) and his new album Want Two. Tom Vek has been burning Island’s bucks to promote his homemade debut We Have Sound.
On a more modest scale Josh Rouse released the quite brilliant Nashville (as Serge would say, “please buy his CD”), and last year critics raved when little Willy Mason came out with Where The Humans Eat. Quickly labelled as the new Bob Dylan in the British press (a sort of immediate kiss of death I would have thought) Mason found his way across here in February and it seems as though he’s been here ever since, touring the country, playing in well chosen small venues, and winning over the hearts of hoards of fans, and opening the sticky chequebooks of anxious admires in the A&R side of things all pushing to sign him up (his album was released under licence to Virgin and he currently has no publishing deal).
In fact it turns out that Willy might have been here a tad too long, as by the time we managed to see him he was clearly suffering from tour fatigue in a big way, and as this was (allegedly) the last gig of his tour (“I’m going away for a long long time and if I ever come back you won’t recognise me”) he was also somewhat de-mob happy. Toying with a bottle of Jack Daniels on stage has become a trademark of his UK tour, but Willy had clearly been toying at the bar pretty seriously before coming on stage, and though he passed the half-empty whiskey bottle to the crowd early in the set, his admirers provided him with a flow of beverages through the night. It didn’t seem to interfere with his playing too much (at least not until the end), and his voice was more adenoidal than slurred. But it certainly fired him up when it came to his drummer, younger brother Sam Mason...
Now Sam was dressed in a monkey suit – no doubt deep in meaning and linked to the chained monkey pictured on the inside of the CD cover, from a painting by Roelandt Savery (more famous for painting Dodos). So when he appeared on stage his brother subjected him to a tirade of taunts, which continued throughout the evening. Now maybe these were meant to be symbolic too, but I rather suspect that the impromptu brawl (shades of Ray and Dave Davies – they were knocking blocks off each other) that broke out amongst the warring siblings carried a rather different meaning, and by the way the Mason’s manager rushed to the stage to break it up was certainly not planned.  
Sam MasonSam Mason
(in his monkey suit)
Shame really. For all the alcohol Mason (Willy) performed well. He had an easy rapport with the audience (not difficult to tell why – they were the same age, looked the same and were just as pissed) who clearly identify closely with many of his songs – though truth to tell they have a far greater universality than the teenager to man angst stuff would suggest.
Willy MasonWilly Mason's album
'Where the humans eat'
  The audience demanded – and got - the delightful contents of the album, with a few additional songs – one written by his mother and father, ‘Carry him down’, and a very boyscoutesque version of ‘Freight Train’ (he was losing it a bit by then). And if you haven’t heard any of this stuff you should – Mason is a remarkable talent – songs like ‘Where the humans eat’, ‘All you can do’, ‘Oxygen’, and ‘Gotta keep movin’ could grace any ‘100 best songs’ list. But what was really outstanding was the contribution made by brother Sam. His skiffle snare drum style gives the album a real hobo groove, and he delivered it perfectly on stage – despite the tiresome filial abuse. And of course I can’t help thinking that if the big boys get hold of Willy and put him in a studio with a big production budget it could be this sound that’s one of the first things to go.
But at least he showed some contrition. “Ok, I know I’ve been a fucking twat. I’m pissed and I’ve gone too far”. However it didn’t stop him from leaving with a flourish. “Hold them up” he urged his admires – “Fuck, man, I never thought I’d be able to do this in folk music” - and then leapt off the stage and surfed through a sea of hands and waves of beer to the back of the hall, where he ended the evening surrounded by fans and loads of booze, happily chatting the night away. Tired, emotional (“This fame thing is fucking crap man”), maybe just a bit mixed up? Who knows? But do come back Willy; cut back on the JD, and be nice to your brother. - Nick Morgan (concert photos by Kate)

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