Thursday 20 September 2018

Willy Mason Live Review: 'This sell-out gig was carried along on swells of feel-good alternative country'

Four stars

Willy Mason played last night at the Grand Social, Dublin
Willy Mason played last night at the Grand Social, Dublin
Ed Power

Ed Power

Willy Mason has done well to still have a career a decade after being anointed the “New Dylan” – traditionally the kiss of death to an up-and-coming strummer with a gravelly voice and an underdog demeanour.

Fuelling the comparison was his ballad Oxygen – an early hit that took the Sixties protest song and rebooted it for a new generation.

The difference was that Oxygen was powered by optimism rather than anger, its “the world it just keeps spinning” coda less an exercise in stating the obvious than a list of reasons to get out of bed in the morning.

Now in his mid 30s, Mason retains his wide-eyed enthusiasm and this sell-out concert was carried along on swells of feel-good alternative country.

The Massachusetts native has a comforting and expressive voice and his music is driven by a laid-back energy. The atmosphere at moments resembled an affirmative hoedown, his fiddle player and guitarist buffing up the tunes with a barn-dance gloss.

Older tracks earned the warmest reception, with material from his more recent albums received attentively rather than with unfettered devotion.

What the audience was waiting for was obvious and a great joyous whoop went up as Mason plunged into Oxygen. Smiling from beneath an impressive beard, he took the moment in with good grace.

This, for better or worse, is his anthem and he’s had the sense to make peace with the fact.

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