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Willy Mason @ The Grand Social (Live Review) Featured

Willy Mason

@ The Grand Social, Dublin

By Marky Edison


We first became of aware of Willy Mason in 2004 when ‘Oxygen’ flooded the alternative radio airwaves. That protest song was his debut single and it wasn’t long before he was collaborating with The Chemical Brothers. ‘Battle Scars’ is a highlight of the We Are The Night album and we have no idea how he dropped off our radar after that.  (Apart from this guest spot on Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan’s album in 2010).

Tonight is only his second gig in Dublin, which is surprising when he’s been touring for so long. He must feel some connection with Ireland, given that a recent album of remixed tracks had a title in Irish.

The singer-songwriter is supported by the elegant vocals and sparse hollow-body guitar work of Amy May Ellis. When she started playing, there were 20 people by the stage. By the closing number, the beer garden had emptied as word had spread about her hypnotic, charming, and haunting set. A little artsy for our tastes but she certainly brought the audience on a journey.

We are perched up at the bar for the main set. The unassuming trio take the stage to a polite and understated ovation. The welcome is in keeping with the music. Mason is either very chilled, or very shy. There are a few thanks muttered but no banter between songs. They move quickly from each song to the next. The presence of the rhythm section elevates the performance from what’s been committed to tape/hard drive. It even allows Mason the chance to experiment with guitar sounds and rock out a bit. The aforementioned ‘Oxygen’ and recent single ‘Youth on a Spit’ are delivered with swagger and panache.

They’re organic and rootsy. Even when they skip between genres and throw in a country number, it’s played with well-earned confidence in their abilities and in each other. Mason may not be chatty onstage but he puts a lot into his performance and it pays off with the crowd. They’re happy to sing along, reflecting his verve back to him. It’s a rare combination to be able to write songs that enlighten and affect people while putting on an entertaining and dynamic show but Mason has it, and he’s not afraid to use it.


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