Steve Mason, Scala, London

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The Independent Culture

Of all the implements you wouldn't expect to see Steve Mason – ex of The Beta Band and his own side projects, King Biscuit Time and Black Affair – to be wafting around in Kings Cross's dingy Scala, it's a light-up, see-through plastic tambourine. The kind of thing you might buy outside Manchester's Nynex Arena while queuing for a Boyzone gig... in 1995. It looks silly, but seems to fit in with a newfound lightness of soul in the Fife singer. One that was evident – albeit in parts – on his majestic 2010 LP, Boys Outside.

Mason seems in a decent mood, too. Entering the stage of the small room alone and in a blue hooded jacket and a plaid shirt, he looks indistinguishable from the men of a certain age who make up the crowd. He opens with a stark, echoey, solo take on the Beta Band's "Simple". As the rest of the band take to the stage for "Lost and Found", one of the stand-outs from Boys Outside, Mason clambers atop his soapbox: "Anyone been to Fortnum & Mason recently? Do you know the irony – 'cause I support all that madness – is that I bought my mum a hamper from Fortnum & Mason for Christmas... Sell out!"

The politics continue between songs throughout the evening (he had complaints about it at a Manchester gig but, admirably, he doesn't care). He later preempts another Boys Outside track with a graphic description of marching on Parliament with petrol bombs. He's fired up alright, but this outrage doesn't seep into Boys Outside's music, which is full of gentle takes on family, love, heartbreak and death, punctuated by Mason's soulful, sad voice, which is up there with Guy Garvey's for grown-up, blokey emotion. The title track, a sad goodbye to an old friend (possibly the depression that affected Mason for years) is hauntingly good, managing to evoke a lost youth and a brighter future in-between the night's undying bass fuzz.