Live Music + Gig Reviews

Willy Mason + Kid Carpet @ Leadmill, Sheffield

15 April 2005


I used to love Fisher Price when I was a kid. Fisher Price airports, Fisher Price garages, I had the lot. The reason I mention the quintessential children’s toy manufacturer is because tonight was the first time I’ve seen someone on stage playing a Fisher Price guitar.

Kid Carpet is not your typical support act. In fact it’s tempting to think that he may have blown some less charismatic acts offstage. Quite simply, you won’t have seen anything like him before. He jumps around the stage, possessing an incredible amount of energy, fiddling with his keyboard, adjusting the tempo of his drum machine and brandishing the said Fisher Price guitar.

His music was unique as well – the nearest you could probably come to was a lo-fi version of Beck, although there were touches of Blur in there as well. His songs had an inspired range of samples, including Tom Tom Club‘s Wordy Rappinghood and, saving the best till last, his space-age version of Van Halen‘s Jump. Look out for Kid Carpet, his debut album is out next month, and if he can transfer his live energy into the studio it should be a mightily entertaining listen.

Willy Mason is, inevitably, less energetic than his support act but this hardly matters. With his tousled hair, crumpled clothes and slightly hunched stage presence, he looks every inch his 20 years – until, that is, he opens his mouth. From Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, he has often been compared to a young Bob Dylan, and it’s true that he has the voice of an old folk/blues veteran, together with the songs to match.

The shuffling skiffle beat of Gotta Keep Moving kicks off proceedings – Mason is only accompanied by his younger brother Sam on drums, yet the two of them manage to perfectly recreate the feel of the excellent Where The Humans Eat album. Mason has a voice that some may find grating (it’s wobbly at times and sometimes wanders off-key) but it’s perfectly suited to the opening tracks tonight, especially the wonderful upcoming single So Long.

The audience love him too, especially when he jumps down into the front row to ask the fans where they’ve travelled from – unfortunately for the people near the back of the Leadmill, this meant a few minutes spent staring at an empty stage.

The acoustic setting was a bit of a double-edged sword to be honest – some songs worked fantastically, such as the gorgeously atmospheric Live It Up, the quirky Just A Fly (featuring the fantastic line “you’re just a kid, you shouldn’t read Dostoevsky at your age”) and the standout Our Town. However, some songs were crying out for a full band arrangement as they sounded a bit dirge-like tonight.

The song that everyone was waiting for inevitably came towards the end of the set. Oxygen has already become something of an anthem already and is greeted ecstatically by tonight’s crowd. “You’re going to have to help me sing this”, Mason groans (he does look knackered quite frankly), and the Leadmill didn’t disappoint. After a word perfect rendition by the gathered hordes, he was off.

Or so we thought…just as the lights started to come back up, Mason reappeared on his own on the stage with his acoustic guitar. “I changed my mind” he grinned before treating us to a couple of new songs and a song that his dad used to sing to him. It was a suitably intimate end to a gig from a man who could well become a very big name soon.


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Willy Mason + Kid Carpet @ Leadmill, Sheffield