A sold out show at Norwich Arts Centre is a treat like no other. The converted church auditorium offers fantastic acoustics and an amazing atmosphere whatever the show, but for Willy Mason and Matthew and the Atlas this week, the venue was especially brilliant.
Humble opener Matthew and the Atlas took to the stage solo for this one, and demonstrated a gravelly and rather astounding vocal ability that made for a full and textured set. Matt Hegarty’s nervous but heartwarming stage banter was well-matched to his soulful songs and effortless delivery. As with most sold out Norwich shows, the room was full before Matt played his first tune – the makings of a great show.
By the time Willy Mason arrived on stage, the audience was primed, ready and positively excited. Beginning with older songs from his debut and sophomore albums, Mason had pretty much the whole audience singing along from the opening line. The smiles on people’s faces throughout the set were enough to make even the bigger sceptic believe in the power of the song.
Mason offers rock-tinged Americana written about the simplest things (like ‘Carry On’ – written about a moth), but the whole package is painfully effective and undeniably beautiful. He’s got a voice to take your breath away and leave you weak at the knees, and there was more than one lady in the audience who was visibly swooning her way through his performance. There’s something impressive about Mason’s ability to stand up on stage armed with only an electric guitar and an American drawl, and capture the attention of people from – judging by their fashion sense – very different walks of life.
The standout moment of this show came in the form of ‘Restless Fugitive’, Mason’s latest single (hear it below). Grinning at the packed-out room, he says “You can sing along to this one if you want to do that”. The stage banter of a man well-accustomed to a sold out venue, but still refreshingly modest. He takes a moment to teach us the lyrics, not that anybody in the room doesn’t know them, and then smiles a wry smile for the length of the song as the whole audience chants his words back at him. It seems I’m not the only one who can’t wait for that third album.
This was the kind of night that really defines a small venue like Norwich Arts Centre; a show that highlights everything the venue’s supposed to represent – the intimate, the vibrant and the compelling, and with a bloody brilliant sound system.
There’s plenty more of my photos from the show over on Take On The Road.