Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Live review: Willy Mason, Oxford Zodiac, 8 May

The live show used to be Willy Mason’s ideal environment, and his main redeeming feature. The fact that his world-weary tales of hardship and political disaffection didn’t quite accord with his youth, or his apparently affluent background, mattered little: cheerfully touring the world with an acoustic guitar, a disarming manner and a passion for discovering like-minded souls, he seemed to inhabit the Guthrie-esque fantasy his debut album created. Equally, his clumsy voice, clumsier-still undergrad musings on life, love and global capitalism, and the fact that he has only two or three great songs, could be ignored: enjoy the endearing sing-a-longs and the everyman persona, kids!

What happened? For starters, it sounds as if his new album, If The Ocean Gets Too Rough, is as dully earnest and self-important as the reviews say – less of the light wit, more of the bad similes. Every song seems to reference the ocean, rivers, sleep and death. Energy … sapping … Secondly, Willy’s got a band. This seemed promising: by the look of them, he and Conor Oberst are going head-to-head to assemble the best replica of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. But, while Bright Eyes’ version lacked subtlety, at least you know why they’re there: by contrast, I’ve never seen a band do less work, or have less effect, than Mason’s backing players. Is he not paying them? The only time they come to life, they concoct an aimless jam in the middle of the fourth of a five-song encore. A five-song set would’ve been tolerable (especially had he included ‘Oxygen’, his best song). But this was an ordeal.

In other news:

Head over to unhemmed for non-stop esoterica, lo-fi fun and the power of suggestion, Warczarwa-style. If you know who Louis Fournier is, and what he done, holler at my man over there.

1 comment:

Jon Baines said...

GMS, you are da bom. thanks for the shout-out and the super description. the world is small: the stars of the latest post on unhemmed were also at willy mason last night (though the snail couldn't make it).

ever yours,