Dave Mason | February 10, 2023 | CMA Theater | Nashville, TN – Concert Review


Review by Shawn Perry
Live photos by Joe Schaeffer

While so many veteran musicians have had their shares of highs and lows, Dave Mason has somehow managed to keep his good name and reputation as a stellar songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist in balance. He’s a man with an unparalleled legacy who’s recorded with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones; written widely covered songs like “Feelin’ Alright” and “Only You Know And I Know”; toured with Delanie and Bonnie; and carries on with a successful solo career. Seeing Mason and his band within the intimate confines of the CMA Theater in downtown Nashville was a revelation into the man and his epic career.

To get things started, a young musician named Thunderstorm Artis, armed with nothing more than an acoustic and a mighty voice, stepped up to play an eight-song, 30-minute set. A top contender on ‘The Voice” who hails from Hawaii and has toured with Jack Johnson, Artis is stylistically slow and deliberate in his delivery, yielding a stretch of anticipation that builds at every turn of a verse. His rendition of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” earned him a standing ovation on TV, and tonight’s reading was just as moving. “Sedona,” an original composition, brought the whole room to a standstill. We’d see Artis later; for now, his job at warming the crowd up was well received and a nice segue for things to come.

The stage was already set up for the headliner, so it was only another 15 minutes before Dave Mason, drummer Marty Fera, keyboardist Tony Patler, guitarist Johnne Sambataro, and bassist Ray Cardwell took their places and kicked in. When they did, it was with a surefire winner in the form of one of Mason’s most beloved hits, “Only You Know And I Know.” Along with a smooth and easy playback, images of Delaney and Bonnie, who released a single of the song, appeared on the backdrop screen. Mason told the audience he spent a year and a half in Delaney and Bonnie’s touring band, which also included Eric Clapton and, on occasion, George Harrison. As we were to find out, most of the music played tonight was embedded into the rock and roll paradigm, one way or another.

Looking resplendent in all black with his trusty red Fender Strat locked and loaded, Mason followed up with four Traffic songs — “40,000 Headmen” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” which he originally recorded with the band, along with “Rock And Roll Stew” and “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys,” which were recorded and released when Mason wasn’t with the band (he was in and out of Traffic three times). Of the four, “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” was the most unrecognizable as it floated and tingled in a jazzy, dreamlike state.  “Dear Mr. Fantasy” gloriously spilled out in a different key and meter.

Mason weaved the history of Traffic with Blind Faith, as both bands shared a few bills together in 1969 (Steve Winwood was pulling a double shift back then). We were treated to a tasty offering of “Can’t Find My Way Home,” with Sambataro leading the way on vocals and acoustic guitar.

It wouldn’t be a Dave Mason show without a few tracks from his celebrated 1970 debut album, Alone Together. In addition to the aforementioned “Only You Know And I Know,” which opens the album, the set featured “World In Changes” (which received a complete makeover when Alone Together was reimagined as Alone Together Again in 2020), “Look At You Look At Me” And “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.” Mason also threw in other solo numbers like “We Just Disagree” (his highest charting single) and “Let It Go, Let It Flow” from 1977’s Let It Flow album.

The main set ended with what could arguably be called Mason’s most-well known song, the immortal “Feelin’ Alright.” He proudly announced it as a number everyone knows, covered by over 50 artists, and definitely a tune that needed a little audience participation. Mason separated choruses for the women and the men. He even invited Thunderstorm Artis up for a verse. Everyone was on their feet, swaying, and, without question, feelin’ alright.

For the encore, the band went straight into Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” a song Mason recorded on his own, as well as with Jimi Hendrix. Old photos of Mason and Hendrix together flashed up on the backdrop screen. Tonight’s run-through with the singer’s voice and guitar work perfectly aligned was the cherry on top of a magnificent musical retrospective.

Afterword: A visit to the merchandise table was like seeing the history of Dave Mason on full display. Along with a variety of CDs, LPs, posters, hats, and T-shirts, there were cards for pre-ordering the musician’s upcoming memoir, Only You Know & I Know, written with renowned author (and frequent VintageRock.com contributor) Chris Epting. Turns out that Chris was in Nashville with another musician he co-wrote a memoir with — the one and only John Oates. He was kind enough to share a photo of himself with Mason and Oates after the show.

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