“You’re up late?”, I said to a former colleague who I knew needed to be at work at about 5am in the morning. “Well it’s a special occasion” she told me, as we both arrived at The Basement at about the same tonight. And indeed it was, with the launch of a “come back” CD by Dave Mason, former lead singer and songwriter for legendary Australian band, “The Reels”.
I’d grown up with their music and I really like “The Reels”, but I was probably about five years younger than most of the audience (even moreso for Damo) who were clearly big fans of Dave Mason and his work. As I looked around the crowd, it was kind of amusing to look at a crowd of people in their mid to late 40s who were nodding their heads in time to the music, whereas 20 to 25 years ago, when The Reels were popular, they would have been jumping up and down.
With the exception of one or two of their earlier independent releases, I knew most of the songs, although they were re-interpreted in many different ways. Some of the songs had a country-swing flavour to them, others were re-interpreted as Kransky Sister-style tuba numbers. For one of their biggest hits, “Bad Moon Rising”, Dave adopted the persona of a madman shouting through a megaphone, warning people of the end of the world. It was like Tom Waits on crack!
Musically, the tunes of “The Reels” were always very happy. However, when re-interpreted 2007-style in a variety of musical genres, the blackness of the lyrics became evident, especially in songs like “Quasimodo’s Dream” and “World’s End”.
Dave also performed a new song which I thought was quite good, and added a lot of fun to the room with his sing-a-long version of Melanie’s “Look What They’ve Done To My Song”, in which he added the line “Look what they’ve done to my flag”, during which he ripped an Australian flag to shreds and screamed about American imperialism.
Yes, it was that kind of night. Kinda predictable, but also kinda unpredictable. Dave Mason is a gifted song-writer, but he’s also a very gifted interpreter of his and other people’s songs. As I was watched him perform, and reflected on an obviously wild life with lots of drugs and alcohol, I imagined him for a moment in twenty or thirty years time still on stage, still finding life and meaning in the classic songs he sang tonight.