Live at Cockpit on Monday, 14th May 2007
Elvis Perkins and backing band Dearland are the perfect band to get people in the mood for some folk. Their songs are in the old style of honky tonk folk, using harmonica, trombone, and marching bass drum to create a catchy foot-stomping set. The wide-mouthed style backing vocals of the band are very humorous, especially when the little drummer holding the huge drum steps in! And I love the handle bar moustaches from two of the band members, like a blond and redhead 118 118 team.
'May Day', 'Moon Woman II' and '1,2,3,Goodbye' are all worth a listen; you can feel the heartache in the slower, more melancholy songs from Perkins' tragic life (losing both parents in horrific circumstances. His father died of Aids - he was the guy who played Norman Bates in the original 'Psycho' - and his mother died in one of the planes that hit the world trade centre).
For this tour and to promote the new album Willy Mason is backed by a group of his friends back home, still including his younger brother Sam on drums and Nina Violet on viola and banjo. This does help the sound out for the new tracks like 'We Can Be Strong' (Nina's vocals are an excellent replacement for KT Tunstall's) and anthem sing-a-long 'Save Myself' as well as 'Gotta Keep Walking', but I would have preferred the tracks from 'Where The Humans Eat' to be played solo as in the old days.
'All You Can Do' sounds very slow in tempo, as does the title track, though this doesn't stop a huge shout of "Me!" during that famous verse. 'Our Town' also gets a loud helping hand from the crowd for the delectable menu served up in the song "White bread/some cheese spread/ and some mayonnaise". Yummy.
Willy appears in a good mood, smiling with the crowd a lot more than he was in Sheffield the previous week. He says his first gig over here was in the Cockpit, raising a Yorkshire cheer. I saw him perform solo at Jumbo Records earlier in the day, with some new hits like 'We Can Be Strong' and 'Save Myself' as well as 'Still A Fly' and 'Hard Hand To Hold'. He makes a few mistakes, but then lets us know that he is having relationship problems which are obviously distracting him. I though this would spill over to the later show, but it just shows how Mason is beyond his years, coping with these big things and still putting on a sell-out worthy performance.
Mason does perform solo for the encore, after kicking off one of Sam's cymbals (Sam himself looks to have been messing about all through the show; him and fellow band mate Nina are constantly laughing between songs, and encouraging the others to join in!). Willy always seems shy on stage but he will talk to anyone, including the playful hecklers scattered about in the otherwise intent-looking crowd.
Near the end of 'Sold My Soul' Willy gets all raspy and soulful, screaming the vocals and for a brief time escaping from his unique Massachusetts drawl. The crowd love it. 'Hard Hand To Hold' is requested, as is 'Fear No Pain'. It's the last track that gets all the glory though, the hit 'Oxygen'. Willy asks for help as his voice is on the way out, and the crowd gladly oblige. This was one of the best shows for me this year, and I can't see the pull of the Mason ending any time soon.