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22. Jan. 2009, 16:49
29. Mai. 2007, 15:51Willy Mason
Friday 25th May 2007
Looking around the Mandela Hall you wonder how Willy Mason gets away with playing intimate shows in the homes of his fans. You also wonder how the powers that be down at the University thought that he would fail to fill the Speakeasy. The place is literally packed to the rafters with a peculiar mix of folks all with a shared love of the talented, young man on the stage sporting a fans baseball cap and bantering with the die-hards down at the front.
There’s always the expectation that singer-songwriters can be a dour bunch but Willy Mason bucks the trend. He’s charming, engaging, endearing and to top it all he’s an insightful musician and wordsmith. From the opening lines he is joined by a highly vocal crowd, lending their voices t not only the big hits from the last album but also to the newer tracks. His songs hang in that area between the introspective ballad that Conor Oberst has made his own and the sing-along anthem.
Tonight’s show is loud, proud, an alt country spectacle complete with fiddles and banjos and a sense of fun that many musicians seem to leave at the door.
“Fear No Pain”, “Our Town” and “Hard Hand To Hold” which is curiously left as an afterthought in the encore all sound delightfully fresh. The live environment lends a certain edge to those songs which is lacking on a CD and from the bits and pieces we hear from the new album “When The Sea Gets Rough” it looks set to be on a par if not slightly superior to “Where The Humans Eat”.
As the crowd is drawn in song by song the volume increases and by the time we’re treated to a solo acoustic version of “Oxygen” it’s Willy Mason and the combined choirs of South Belfast that life the roof. The song says “we can be stronger than bombs if we just sing along” and it’s believable as a palpable sense of unity descends upon the venue. As we embrace the Americana culture, he treats himself to a few of Northern Ireland’s finest beverages, swigging from cans of Guinness and a bottle of Buckfast much to the bemusement and approval of the vocal majority.
By the end of the night, the alcohol has well and truly set the mood. It’s become the sort of gig that your friends play at house parties, taking requests and fluffing words and chords. There’s a little Hank Williams cover thrown in for good measure as part of a seemingly unending encore before he unabashedly tries a new song, fails, and lets loose a few vocal and guitar wobbles and wraps the night up with a cheeky drunken grin. No one feels let down by this amateurish end to a fantastic show. It has been somewhat "house party" but we’ve all been very welcome guests.