LIVE: Dave Mason @ Alive at Five in Riverfront Park, 6/7/12

Review by Richard Brody

After a dismal week of weather, the sun shone brightly, the people came, and the 2012 Alive at Five concert series got off to a strong start with Dave Mason and his band. Mason is best known for his days in Traffic, his stint with Bonnie and Delaney, and his ’70s solo career; he did not disappoint those who came to hear his best known work from that period. Mason’s voice is still strong, but I had forgotten what a superb guitar player he is. His harmonic touches on “Look at You, Look at Me” shimmered, and his technique and control of the wah-wah on a number of songs – most notably “Shouldn’t Have Taken More Than You Gave” – took the playing and the song to another level.

While it was clearly Dave’s show, he was not out there alone. His band provided solid support. Johnne Sambataro’s acoustic playing on the above mentioned “Shouldn’t Have Taken More Than You Gave” neatly complemented Dave’s wah-wah work. Tony Patler on keyboards added color, solid rhythm and a nice solo on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” while Alex Drizos supplied the bottom on bass. However, the secret weapon of the band (and every band needs one) was Alvino Bennett on drums. His timing and flourishes were spot on, and he drove the rocker “Let Me Go” from Mason’s 2008 release “26 Letters – 12 Notes.” In addition to their playing, the band provided excellent support vocals, most notably on “We Just Disagree.”

From his days with Traffic, we got “Forty Thousand Headmen,” and two of the bigger crowd-pleasers – “Feelin’ Alright” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” The latter was stripped of its original psychedelic sound for a somewhat bluesy one. That gave the song a different feel than the innocent youthful one recorded almost 45 years ago. Before he performed the former, Dave reminded us that he wrote “Feelin’ Alright” when he was 19 years old and urged the crowd (I couldn’t tell if he was being genuine or sarcastic) to sing the chorus just like they probably had in some karaoke bar. Regardless of his commentary, Mason and band certainly did right by the song, and they received a standing ovation at its conclusion. This brought the band back for an encore.

One of Dave’s charitable visions is Work Vessels, an organization he co-founded that supports military veterans as they transition back to civilian life. His first encore song was “Thank You,” a ballad that was written about and dedicated to those who serve in the military. The second encore song was quite different. Mason, who played the acoustic 12-string guitar heard on Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” chose an electric six-string for a stinging version of that song, bringing the crowd to their feet for the last standing ovation of the evening.

Emerald City opened the show with a 40-minute set that fit well with Mason’s selections. The seven-piece band showed off their chops on blues-based rock that featured some excellent slide playing, honking sax, and jamming galore. Their introduction to “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” exemplified the latter, but the biggest hand that they received was for their last selection, the three songs that end “Abbey Road.”

It was a fine beginning to what looks like a good summer at Albany’s Riverfront Park. Next up on Thursday (June 14) is Bootsy Collins. Come prepared to dance.

Steve Barnes’ review and Lori Van Buren’s photographs at The Times Union
Timothy Reidy’s photographs

Let It Go, Let It Flow
40,000 Headmen
Look At You, Look At Me
We Just Disagree
Let Me Go
Good 2 U
Shouldn’t Have Taken More Than You Gave
You Know And I Know
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Feelin’ Alright
Thank You
All Along The Watchtower

Sweet Home Chicago
Tell The Truth
Keep on Growing
Can’t Find My Way Home
Watching The River Flow
It’s Not My Cross To Bear
Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The End

  1. Stanley Johnson says

    I believe Dave’s opening song was “Show Me Some Affection”. When Dave played “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, it was the second time in the same week that I heard a former member of Traffic play it. See my review of Steve Winwood at Mountain Jam:

  2. Richard Brody says

    Stanley – thanks for the song title – how would you compare the two versions of “Dear Mr. Fantasy”? Did Steve’s still have that dreamy psychedelic quality? Richard

  3. Stanley Johnson says

    Yes, Windwood’s version was much closer in mood to the original and he played lead guitar on it. Mason’s reworking is a recent arrangement, since he played it like the original at last year’s Mountain Jam. I thought I heard that in addition to acoustic guitar, Mason also played bass on All Along The Watchtower instead of Noel Redding (although it could have been Hendrix.) I think Dylan said it was his favorite version of the song.

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