Traffic jam with Dave Mason
First Posted: 8/4/2014
Dave Mason, a 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and founding member of the band Traffic, must be feeling quite nostalgic these days.
First, the 68-year-old singer-songwriter originally from Worcester, England, released “Future’s Past,” an album with some new material, but mostly it’s a collection of his past music (both solo and with Traffic) reworked. Then he went back out on the road, where he has thrived for more than 40 years, with “Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam,” a show that celebrates his past both visually on the big screens and musically on stage.
Mason brought the “Traffic Jam” to the Keystone Grand Ballroom at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday, treating the casino crowd to a 90-minute performance of nothing but highlights that got them up and dancing before the night was through.
After a brief video display of his youth spent with Traffic in the late 1960s accompanied mostly by the voice of his one-time band mate Steve Winwood, Mason took the stage with the Traffic tune “(Roamin’ Through the Gloamin’ with) 40,000 Headmen.”
“Thank you, good evening,” he said following the opening number. “It’s nice to be here. Nice to be anywhere as a matter of fact.
“We’re going to play some Traffic songs for you; then we will segue into some Dave stuff.”
The first six songs of the set were Traffic standouts, including: “Pearly Queen” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” (which is featured on the new album), plus “Medicated Goo” and “Rock and Roll Stew” with keyboardist Tony Patler filling in nicely on Winwood’s lead vocals.
The highlight, though, was Mason’s new arrangement of a song he said was “A.D.” or “After Dave,” the 1971 classic “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” For most of the evening, Mason played 12-string acoustic guitar, but for this one, he brought out his electric and showed he is still one of the finest players around, even though he never gets any recognition as a guitar hero.
From there, he took the crowd on a tour of solo songbook, starting with his 1977 No. 12 hit “We Just Disagree.” Although that song has been played to death by every classic rock and adult contemporary station in the country, it still sounded great on Saturday night.
He followed with “World In Changes,” which was originally from his 1970 solo debut “Alone Together” and is featured on the new album.
Then came “How Do I Get to Heaven,” which he dedicated to Jim Capaldi, his band mate in not only Traffic but also the early bands The Hellions and Deep Feeling. Capaldi, who passed away in January 2005, wrote the first verse and chorus of the song before taking ill and Mason finished it up for his 2008 album “26 Letters and 12 Notes.” (A new version appears on “Future’s Past.”)
He then played the new number “Good 2 U” before urging the crowd to dance as he finished up the main set with 1970’s “Only You Know and I Know” and 1978’s “Let It Go, Let It Flow.”
“This is a two-chord song I wrote when I was 19,” he said. “About 50 other versions have been recorded, and you have probably sung it at a karaoke bar. You probably know it best by Joe Cocker, but I just want to make it clear – I wrote this song.”
Mason then finished up the set with an exuberant “Feelin’ Alright,” which he wrote and sang on Traffic’s second album in 1968.
Following a brief exit from the stage, Mason and his crack band (Patler, guitarist and vocalist Johnne Sambataro and drummer Alvino Bennett) came back out for a wicked version of “All Along The Watchtower.”
As the video screens displayed a photo of Mason with Jimi Hendrix (Mason played 12-string acoustic on Hendrix’s hit version of the Bob Dylan tune), the wonderfully nostalgic and musically vibrant evening came to a close.