LIVE: Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam @ The Egg, 1/4/14

Dave Mason @ The Egg

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

Dave Mason’s concert at The Egg on Saturday night was preceded by a slideshow of images, archival photographs that illustrated Mason’s long and storied history in the field of rock, blues, etc. A soundtrack played along with the images, that sounded not unlike modern remixes and covers of classic rock, but were more likely Mason’s originals of his oft-covered songs.

The show was advertised to begin at 7:30pm, and so began promptly at 7:48, perhaps to allow this crowd time to amble in – with scents of patchouli nearly ever-present, one loyal service dog for the aged, and much greying of hair progressed far beyond mere temples or sideburns – but more probably in deference to time honored tradition of holding the show. Yes, a polite crowd, with a few rabble rousers, but mostly quiet and not prone to dance, even upon urging from the band. But at least they weren’t supine.

I kid, of course, because I was in awe of the band, and thus I respect anyone who braved the cold and took advantage of the opportunity to see a bit of rock history played out memorably in the present. It is to my elders’ credit, those who grew up with these songs as tweens, teeny boppers, mods, hippies, Yippies, et al., that they came out, if you like, to show them, that there is an audience for this stuff, even on the night following a snowpocalypse. (Would that the kids would see… The same brain frazzled noodle dancers who pay hundreds to tour with (take your pick) could instead invest a fraction of the time and money to see an outfit with real, vested, undeniable provenance.)

The multimedia presentation, such as it was, was mostly unnecessary. It provided some visual stimulation and served as a buffer against silence or a widget-like pre-show. The crowd talked over the music, and while the screen was big and beautiful and the projector had many lumens, it didn’t really help sell the show or entertain all that much. It just let the few stragglers in the mostly promptly arriving crowd have time for their smoke (or patchouli break) before being seated.

Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam took the stage and immediately launched into an incredibly impressive set of music. The sound was exceptionally well mixed. One had the experience, virtually, of being at a Tanglewood or SPAC with the advantage of an acoustically superior indoor space. This tinnitus sufferer came away from a nearly two-hour show with no ringing of the ears, yet it felt very loud in there, dBs pushed to the max without any feedback or distortion.

Dave Mason @ The Egg

Mason emceed the show, introducing his band, calling the tunes, and raconteuring throughout. He reiterated one story twice, his primer on UK geography, about the place of his birth, in Worcestershire, England (with the Lee and Perrin sauce referenced for mnemonic and pronounciation purposes), and the birthplaces of various musicians he grew up with, played along side, and so forth, ie. Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group.

Dave Mason’s voice and guitar chops are in great shape, and after an evening on a variety of electric and acoustic guitars – notably, the twelve string – he shredded on his Strat. Mason was most evidently the guy with the monster chops, pulling out a variety of tight and well-phrased guitar solos as the night progressed. Mason let guitarist Jason Roller shine on early solos. Roller also also comped on mandolin, and added chorus harmonies. Keyboardist Anthony Patler, with his mix of modern and classic synth and electric piano sounds, handled vocal duties as well as, if not with the same incredible command as Mason. So it was with drummer Alvino Bennett thoroughly in the pocket. With Patler also handling the bass duties, the four-piece really did the work of five or six.

Without the clutter of excess percussionists or other afterthoughts, the band was able to completely fill out the sonic space with plenty of room for phrasing or vocal expression. Mason benefitted from a competent sound crew, who both got him in the right space EQ-wise and punched in extra touches of reverb or echo on his vocals when warranted.

Mason drew from an impressive stock of tunes that he wrote or cowrote, then ventured into what he called Dave songs, or Dave territory, stuff you’ve heard just as much as the Traffic songs. He introduced “Feelin’ Alright” by saying, in essence, “Joe Cocker popularized this one, but I wrote it.” All the shouted crowd requests were covered by the set list or in the encore. There were swampy blues numbers, ’60s-’70s rockers, some soulful ballads, and no small number of timeless classics. He managed to rescue “All Along the Watchtower” from its delivery to purgatory by Dave Matthews, reviving it – and songs like “Dear Mr. Fantasy” – with real vigor, emotion and immediacy.

He’s a funny guy, and gracious, too, without a trace of UK accent. It’s unsettling, listening to this man expound or expand upon his history, sounding like he’s from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Mayhaps we’ve grown too accustomed to Doctor Who, or worse the Geico lizard, but who talks like that? I was scratching my head. He kept the crowd involved with many seemingly off-the-cuff quips – responding rather humorously to one female attendee who proclaimed, “Hallelujah,” with a few seconds pause, a turn to the mic, and… “Right on.”

Dave Mason @ The Egg

Dave Mason @ The Egg

Dave Mason @ The Egg

  1. Rose says

    I thought it was too loud for The Egg! There was no need to BLAST us, then insult his audience for not being rowdy enough. I thought they massacred Low Spark of High Heeled Boy, in fact I barely recognized it, but redeemed themselves with Dear Mr. Fantasy and killed (in a good way) the Hendrix tune. I found myself comparing to the Steve Winwood concert at SPAC this summer-No comparison. DM still has the voice and can still play, I guess I am fond of the more refined Traffic member. I loved the drummer!

  2. Rudy says

    I respect Mason’s work with Traffic’s early work, but he comes across as the Al Bundy of rock music, even admitting during the concert that his best work dated back to when he was 19 or 20. (Bundy peaked as a senior running back in high school, with four TDs, as fans of “Married with Children” will recall.). His guitar playing was decent but unspectacular–where was the rumbling hook to “Dear Mr. Fantasy”????– and his voice strained except when an acoustic approach taken. His band was mediocre and mixed poorly and was not very loud, to be honest–the guitarist sounded like he was a fan of Boston trying out an amp at Drome Sound, the drummer just measured time, and don’t even get me started on the keyboardist, who had the audacity to sing the Winwood parts like he was Michael Bolton’s little brother and play some of the cheesiest sounds this side of an early ’80s lounge band. It was a low overhead, high profit approach (“Dave Mason’s Traffic Jame”) of brilliant marketing by Mason, whose in between song stories, by the way, were snoozeworthy (compare him to his contemporaries–Loudon Wainwright, Ray Davies, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, Peter Wolf, in particular, who have played killer shows at the Egg–and the narrative and performance deficiencies Saturday were obvious). When the audience stood up, it felt more like a 7th inning stretch than adoration for Mason’s performance. Lastly, if you do the math, Mason’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though he was a quasi-member of Traffic for much of their career! Seriously, how many times did he quit that band? Yet he’s enshrined in Cleveland, and The Meters, Link Wray, and Doug Sahm are not. What a strange world indeed. Can’t wait for Trombone Shorty to set things right again in The Egg….

  3. Brett says

    hey Rose –do you mean the BOB DYLAN TUNE ? ALL ALONG THE WATCH TOWER —- if you’re going to comment have your facts in order please ! Hendrix did a version of it but Dylan wrote it .
    And Rudy I agree with you about deceptive promotion ….this was a garage band set up at most .
    Folks don’t get me wrong I love and respect Dave Mason but sometimes you have to just admit ” I’m getting old and can’t do it like I did a few years ago ” . Looking forward to seeing one of Eric Claptons favorite guitarist next at the EGG – Sonny Landreth – don’t miss this one people !!!

  4. Liz says

    It was a great concert in a nice theater, every seat is a good seat, nice accoustics, stay home if you don’t like the place or band. Go to a bar. Music changes over the years and she must realize that 2014 is way past the late 60’s, 70’s and beyond and is presented differently NOW.
    All 3 of you sound like you are in your 20’s to maybe 30’s, what do you all know about classic rock music anyway ? Quit your whining ……

  5. Brett says

    Liz , first of all — this is a venue to express opinions as you just did . Second —no one critized the venue . Third — when you invest (buy a ticket) in order to see a live act you expect to get a show that you enjoy and think should be at a certain level of quality , if not you have the right to say so . Fourth —- I’m in my mid fifties , have been into all kinds of music and have invested heavily (collected) in since I was 13 years old , I constantly read about and always have & have seen upwards of 500 concerts and have seen Dave Mason at least 5 times I can remember and at this point this was the weakest preformance from him I’ve witnessed and the weakest band I’ve seen him use , no one was whining but you about us “3” expressing our views and BTW how old are you ? —- If you ever want to match wits or banter about classic rock , british blues , american blues , folk music , country music , rap …. ect …… I gladly welcome the challenge ! PEACE from an old hippie 😉

  6. Stanley Johnson says

    OK, a little perspective: I’ve seen Mason four times in the last ten years and again way back in 1974. I didn’t see this show. But each recent time I saw him he played with a completely different back-up band, the best possibly being at Mountain Jam. So he’s a bit like Chuck Berry, who goes even furthur and uses a completely different back-up band every time he plays. The just the way he rock and rolls, probably figuring that most professional musicians have played most of his big songs on stage before. This method does result in some widely variable shows, depending on the tour. He has the right to play All Along The Watchtower any time he wants, because he played on the original Hendrix track on Electric Ladyland, which Bob Dylan said he always preferred to his own version. Steve Winwood, of course, also played on that album on the version of Voodoo Child and sometimes plays that tune in his sets.

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