Norwich Arts Centre December 15, 2023
by Brian Warden
Those out to celebrate the festive season make for a busy St Benedict’s, but a good number of those out and about have made their way here in time to see local act Pretty Terry open tonight’s show.
Space on stage is limited for the six-piece but the band enjoy themselves and their mix of Britpop-influenced indie rock is well received.
The shout-outs show they have friends here tonight, and it highlights just how important it is for established artists to give local outfits the opportunities to reach new audiences.
The opening three songs give little indication of the change of pace and variety of songs that mark the second half of the set, but they close strongly as the crowd grows.
There is a keen anticipation for Steve Mason’s first show in Norwich for four years.
In contrast to tonight’s openers, Mason is joined on stage by just two other musicians on stage – a pianist and a drummer.
He opens with two songs from his most recent album, Brothers And Sisters, including I’m On My Way.
Dog’s Got a Bone is the first of the Beta Band material we’re treated to tonight. With its slow build and the mood it creates, Mason’s introduction of it as “an old campfire song” is a fitting one
During a brief break, the singer thanks us for coming out tonight and says how much better the atmosphere is compared with his show the previous evening in Wolverhampton. Four songs in, and everyone’s very happy in each other’s company.
The lyrics of Mason’s new material focus on a sense of defiance or anti-authority, but the mood he creates is uplifting rather than angry.
The new album’s title track mourns the passing of community – those brought together in nightclubs and town centres – while the chorus is a mobilising call: “Brothers and sisters, pump up the volume.”
An injured hand (caused by a broken wine glass?) is behind Mason’s decision not to play guitar tonight, and as he introduces pianist Darren Morris and drummer Calie Hough to the audience he’s clearly grateful to them both.
Dry The Rain and Squares bring some welcome nostalgia for those who first them two decades ago before the encore, which includes The People Say. Everyone present is encouraged to answer the question “Where is the beautiful fight?”
It feels almost evangelical as Mason urges us to question ourselves and each other, but reminds us that the beautiful fight should be joyous, too.