It doesn’t matter what size of band you are; headlining your hometown is special. Add in the fact it’s the first time doing it and it’s in one of your hometown’s most iconic venues. And it’s sold out a month in advance. It’s a night with so much pressure riding on it. If you’re a fan of the band, it’s one you want to say you were there for. If there’s one band that can rise to such a challenge, it’s Mason Hill.
This was a night that has been a long time coming and it’s obvious the band have made all the right moves, not only to make it happen in the first place but to ensure it matters. The queue just to get into the venue had stretched far up Union Street, as the headliners have brought a well-loved support act in the shape of Massive Wagons.
Balls-out, gritty rock and roll is their calling card and they get one of the best welcomes I’ve seen a support act receive. Make no mistake; people are out in force for both bands tonight with people all around singing along for the duration of the set. The energy from the five piece engulfs the stage and gets the crowd warmed up with songs like “Tokyo”, “Ratio” and “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum”, the band barely take a breather except to thank people for coming out and the people making tonight possible. The only other break in proceedings is before a touching tribute to Rick Parfitt in the form of “Back to the Stack”. No sign of the Quo shuffle but it’s one fitting nonetheless. They refuse to take their foot off the pedal for their allotted time, clearly a band not big on doing ballads. Sometimes, you just don’t need them.
As the strains of Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” fills the room and that intoxicating bass line of Duff MacKagan’s keeps the crowd entertained, the lights dim and vocalist Scott Taylor leads hometown boys Mason Hill onto the stage. By this point, the crowd have reached fever pitch. The Cathouse is bursting with people and from that first moment, the evidence as to why is laid bare. They’re playing the type of modern hard rock the fans are screaming out for; ignoring the cookie-cutter sound which is rife right now.
The five-piece are brimming with confidence and excitement as they batter through the first couple of songs. Taylor vocally expresses his and the band’s gratitude all night, commanding the audience with an iron fist. His soaring vocals bring a melodic quality to the music backed with a matching hard edge.
With only the self-titled EP in the wild, the band has carefully collated tonight’s setlist. With an excellent and familiar interpretation of “Mississippi Queen”, it’s not until that finishes that we hear a track from the self-titled EP. “Your Memory” gets the crowd going wild and the band respond in kind by shifting up a gear. Drumming powerhouse Craig McFetridge pummels his kit into submission, driving the night forward.
Hitting from both ends of the band’s catalogue, we get both old and brand new material before the short acoustic session by Taylor and guitarist James Bird in the shape of “Follow You” before being joined by Marc Montgomery for an acoustic interpretation of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”.
With their electric guitars, both Bird and Montgomery work together; Bird effortlessly firing out his lead guitar work with Montgomery equally easily laying down the rhythm guitar work. However, as a collective, the band have an onstage chemistry which is rare, it’s tangible and present for all to see.
Once again, familiar ground is re-treaded with “Survive” and “No Regrets”, the band welcome to the stage Chris Glen (yes, that Chris Glen) for an enthralling rendition of SAHB’s “Midnight Moses”. Watching Glen interact with the band, it’s obvious even this part of the set has been drilled to perfection as he and Mason Hill’s bass man Matthew Ward duel.
Closing out the set is “Now You See Me” and the anthemic “Where I Belong” with the entire crowd singing along. Leaving the stage, the response galvanises them as they soak in the well-deserved rapturous applause.
With their first headliner in the bag, there’s a second already in place for August. Given the dozen or so times I’ve seen them, I have no doubt it’ll be a top-notch show. The last few times I’ve seen them, I think it can’t get better than last time. Yet somehow they manage to shatter those expectations before even hitting the halfway mark. Tonight was a case of watching history being written in front of you. Pulling out all the stops, with ease, this became the definitive Mason Hill gig.