Never thought I was a big fan of the guitar, until I heard Dave Mason jamming on his bright yellow one, which was one of many he strung on the South Shore Room stage Oct. 4 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Attending legendary a Dave Mason concert was a new experience for me. Most people know who he is or have heard some of his most well known songs, but personally I was
a very young girl when Dave Mason and Traffic were forging their music up the charts.
I entered the concert venue with an openess to the new sounds I would hear and what Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam tribute was all about. I so appreciated being surrounded by fans who were excited for the concert, danced and sang along, and, I must admit, enjoyed being one of the youngest in the room. The couple next to me said they buy a ticket every time Mason plays in Tahoe, and yet they only live 15 minutes away, it took them 45 minutes to get to the venue because of a closed road and alternate route. They said, no traffic or closed roads were going to keep them away. This and many other tidbits from fans and his close friends selling his CDs and shirts accelerated my enthusiasm for the concert to begin.
Dave Mason (guitar/vocals), Alvino Bennett (drums), Johnne Sambataro (guitar/vocals) and Tony Patler (keyboards/vocals) began their set with a familiar Traffic song, “Feelin’ Alright,” which Mason wrote in 1968. It also became a hit for Joe Cocker.
The two large screens flashed “Feelin’ Alright” in and out and circled through psychedelic graphics and colors. Mason greeted the crowd and smiled, “It’s nice to be back here; it’s nice to be back anywhere.” They played the next song, “Pearly Queen” and then Mason began talking about history and called it, Traffic in disguise.
His roots are from England’s West Midlands, a town called Worcester, a place where you play cricket on some of the best grounds, and Mason described cricket as a game that goes on for days. The screens flashed photos of the early days and of Traffic band members, Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Mason. A photo of a white stone cottage flashed and Mason said, “This was an isolated place in the countryside where there were no cell phones, no Internet. How on earth did we make it?” he chuckled. “We did a lot of “research” in that house and made great music there, too.” Next song … “Medicated Goo.”
Mason said the band has been on tour since Jan. 3 and the first shows were on the East Coast, “That wasn’t too smart” he joked. The next classic Traffic tune played was “High Heeled Boys,” a track from Traffic’s “Welcome to the Canteen” album. This song got inspired of the many standing ovations of the night.
Not only did I become a fan of the guitar this evening, the keyboards became a close second, especially the way Patler created incredible sounds. He took over the stage and performed “Rock -n- Roll Stew.” It was a great performance.
Mason highlighted his band often and even let his bus driver, Fred Schmitt, come to stage and jam. When a photo of the bus was displayed on screen, Mason informed the audience, “If Fred doesn’t get to play up here with us, we may end up in somewhere else, another town.” The song they played, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is the title from Traffic’s first album and is on Mason’s newest album, “Dave Mason Future’s Past.” This song earned another standing ovation.
“We Just Disagree” is such a classic, knowing song with lyrics and sounds that tickle the heart, and was one of my favorites. However, the next song, “World in Changes” rocked the house! Patler reached the highest range of sounds with his keyboard and it was truly amazing. Mason changed guitars often to compliment each unique sound. This was by far one of the highest energy performances of the night. Mason shared with his fans that he started his first band, the Jaguars, when he was 16 years old, and that he knew at an early age his path was to play guitar. He said, “That is what is all about, the guitar.”
The band played “Apache,” an instrumental piece which Mason announced he had not played it in 52 years. He suggested, “You may call it surf music, but 52 years ago, all we knew about surf in England was, Surf the soap.”
Sweat and soul came rolling off the master guitarist as he played one mean guitar. I have never heard sounds as good as that.
Mason humbly mentioned Traffic was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2004: “Yes, I am already stuffed and mounted in a museum.”
He talked about his bands, including his first ones called the Hellions and Deep Feeling that began with Capaldi, which led to Traffic. He and his friend were going to begin new projects after the Hall of Fame induction when Capaldi began feeling ill and went back to England. He died shortly after with stomach cancer. Mason lost one of his best friends and longtime Traffic music partners and was affected deeply. Mason’s newest album includes the song, “How Do I Get To Heaven?” This song and photos on the big screen were dedicated to the memory of Capaldi. It was a touching moment to see the photos and watch Mason perform.
Another favorite song on Mason’s new album is “Good 2 You.” Mason gave a shout out to the men in the audience: “Buy the new CD for this one song. Your gals will love you so much more if you get this song.” I agree, the lyrics do bring sweet music to my ears:
“I wanna be good to you.
I wanna be good for you.
I wanna do all the things that you ask me to.
I wanna be good to you; that’s all I wanna do.
Girl I was meant for you.”
It was one great song after another and I was beginning to understand the gratitude and love Mason fans have for him and his talent. He gave a dynamic, high-energy, in-the-zone performance as he rocked out on his yellow guitar the song, “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.”
When he came up for air, he grabbed a towel to wipe away the sweat dripping from his bald head. He gave it all up to us and it was brilliant! The fans jumped up to dance and gave a standing ovation. It was a one-of-a-kind outstanding performance and I now have a clear understanding of what Dave Mason can do with a guitar and why he has such a following.
When Mason left Traffic, he went solo and moved to Los Angles in 1968. I wonder if he knew what an impact he would make in the music world? Mason joined Delaney and Bonnie in 1969 and was their lead guitarist for their Blind Faith tour. Delaney and Bonnie had a No. 2 hit with Mason’s song, “Only You Know, I Know.” In 1970 Mason signed a solo contract with Blue Thumb records and produced his first full album with this song becoming his second single that became a top 40 hit.
Mason and the band left stage and came back out after pleading and applause from the fans and performed their encore song, “All Along the Watchtower.”
Mason’s prelude to this song was heartfelt. He told us he has played with such diverse talent in his lifetime, but who stands out the most is Jimi Hendrix. “He left such an impact on me. This is why I do it and all along the world too.” The screen flashed a photo of Hendrix and Mason at their first meeting in London and mentioned the photo was taken by Linda Eastman.
“All Along The Watchtower” is a song written and recorded by Bob Dylan, but has been covered by many bands and genres, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Mason met Hendrix at a random private party in London and Mason shared the song with Hendrix and he liked it. He recorded it on his John Wesley Harding album and Mason added his talent by playing a 12-string acoustic guitar, for the track. Later in 1974, Mason recorded the song himself on his album and has been a mainstay song he performs at his concerts. Mason’s bond and friendship with Hendrix was timely and legendary for the music industry. You just never know how a chance meeting can change your life. Music and guitar lovers, aren’t we fortunate that legends Mason and Hendrix decided to share their talent with us? They were and are on the right path.
Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam
Oct. 4, 2014, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room