On a sultry summer evening, with a surprisingly strong, refreshing wind blowing across the Detroit River separating Canada and the United States, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason and his current jam band rocked Detroit with a melodic mix of new songs and old. Mason, who’s touring to promote his first record since what feels like the Nixon administration, took to the Renaissance Center summer stage looking like he just hopped off a sailboat. After greeting the crowd by asking if they liked his tan, the first and only comical comment of the evening he launched into the lazy, bluesy guitar sound that is his signature.
The years have not been overly kind to Mason. He’s overweight, pudgy and completely bald – quite a change from his early days in Traffic when he and Steve Winwood both looked like a couple of kids. The years have also seemed to have had an impact on Mason’s temperament, or perhaps I should call it lack of personality. Mason seems to have decided to let his string of hits and fine electric and acoustic guitar playing do all the talking.
For the crowd of a few thousand or so at this free summer concert, the music was more than enough. (The show was free, ostensibly. There was a large section where the concert organizers set up plastic seats for 15 dollars a pop, not a popular move for the folks who were relegated the the long narrow section along the water and behind those who chose to pay.) Mason moved deftly through his catalogue, featuring old chestnuts like “Let It Go, Let It Flow,” “Only You Know And I Know,” and his signature songs, “We Just Disagree,” and “Feelin’ Alright” which ended the concert with the crowd up and dancing to the jazzy rhythms.
Mason, as mentioned, interacted as little as possible with the audience, but seemed genuinely pleases playing. His current touring band is adequate to match his expertise on guitar, though apart from his bass player, seemed equally distant and somewhat obscure. Meanwhile, the crowd was much more interesting. It combined people who don’t seem to grasp the concept of sunscreen or moderate drinking along with a fair amount of old hippies digging the music. There was also a smattering of hot shot, car industry execs dressed for success.
I witnessed a fistfight breaking out far too close to me during the closing number that was quickly broken up as my fiancee and I moved out of harms way. (Perhaps “they just disagreed.”) But all in all, this was an enjoyable night out along the windy river in Detroit Rock City.