Some of my best memories of gig going in Liverpool revolve around hazy evenings spent in the company of the Beta Band. I was at their first visit to Merseyside back in 1998 at the old Lomax on Cumberland Street and will never forget the looping, kaleidoscopic sounds of those early eps tumbling from the speakers, accompanied by frankly scary visuals of masked men climbing backwards up a hill.
The groundbreaking recordings on ‘The Three EP’s’, which were compiled 12 years ago from songwriter Steve Mason’s very first releases, had a massive impact on the UK pop landscape and beyond, quite literally altering the way music was made, bringing a fresh, playful, genre-busting spirit to the deployment of new technology and traditional instruments. Thereafter, The Beta Band, led by Mason, struggled manfully beneath the weight of expectation.
Three more visits over the next six years or so confirmed there was something of a connection between band and city – their last gig on that final tour in 2004 especially saw a reception so warm you could tell that even their notoriously moody frontman was touched.
Since the Beta’s sad split, Mason has returned a couple of times under his various guises, King Biscuit Time and Black Affair, but Monday evening sees him back in Merseyside trading under his own name with a show at the ever welcoming Static Gallery.
Mason’s new album, ‘Boys Outside’, will appear under his own name, because, he says, he’s had enough of all the aliases, and because, more than ever in his life, he’s comfortable in his own skin.
The sparse, haunting arrangements bespeak economy, maturity and focus and can’t help but recall the genius of those early eps, packed as they are with inventively sculpted sounds and sublime melodies, and shot through with a rare emotional honesty.
It’s been a hard time for Mason who has struggled throughout his life with periods of depression, a condition which he kept at bay with various treatments, until he underwent a course of hypnotherapy, which “completely sorted me out”.
Hopefully this bound-to-be-excellent gig can help continue the rehabilitation of one of the Britpop generation’s few genuinely brilliant and original songsmiths.
Liverpool Static Gallery
Monday, 21st June 2010, 20:00 PM