A masterclass in musicality from The Mastersons at The Islington
I was struck by a thought during this masterly, fun filled Mastersons performance. It was this: things are the wrong way round, given the qualities of their current musical output – rather than Chris and Eleanor playing as part of Steve Earle’s band it is Steve who should be playing as a backing musician for them.
That’s just me and the reality is that Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore play a storming set with just their guitars and violin, their voices and their songs (to say nothing of their personalities) to no more than 100 people in the back room of this Islington pub.
The set is in large part taken from their brand new (as yet unreleased though copies were available here) album Transient Lullaby.
It’s testament to quality of the songwriting that the new songs sound absolutely fine on this first listen to them. One of the new songs is called Fight and the sonic battle that takes place between Chris’s guitar and Eleanor’s violin towards the end is something to be seen and heard. It’s probably something that only a married couple could achieve. Absolutely wonderful stuff.
I stated at the top this was gig was fun, which it most certainly was. It’s something that is all too rare in performance. It’s not just the between song repartee but the overall atmosphere they bring to the show. They get audience participation through charm rather than the coercive “we can’t hear you”.
The inspiration for the song Don’t Tell Me To Smile had an interesting and amusing anecdote, but I won’t preempt Eleanor by telling it here.
There was still plenty of material from Birds Fly South and Good Luck Charm with my highlight of the set being The Other Shoe.
The encores are a lovely version of Waterloo Sunset and a raucous You Ain’t Going Nowhere for which they are joined by support artist Anthony D’Amato.
I was really impressed by Anthony’s support slot. He was completely new to me and is someone I’ll be looking out for in future.
This gig was another example of the inequities of the music business, where that for whatever reason it is hard for The Mastersons to get their music out to a wider audience and pull in bigger crowds and play better paying venues. It’s testament to their love of performance that they are prepared to come here and play for us.
Thanks to Chris and Eleanor. I can’t wait for the next time.