Wide Mouth Mason @ The Yale -- 01/14/11

Turns out the last time I saw Wide Mouth Mason, over a year ago, was the last time I would see the original lineup. When bassist Earl Pereira left, I was wondering what would happen to the band, but they picked one hell of a replacement. Last night was the first of two nights at The Yale, as a dress rehearsal, of sorts, before the trio went down to Willie Nelson's studio in Texas to begin recording their new album. Oh, and the new bassist? Gordie Johnson. He of Big Sugar and Grady. Producer of WMM, Joel Plaskett, The Trews and countless others. And just generally being legendary.

They kicked off the night with some older songs, "Why" and "Midnight Rain" to get everyone going, but the bulk of the set were the new songs. Or as Shaun called them, "baby pictures", snapshots of the new songs in their infancy, before they were recorded. And the cool thing was seeing the songs form on stage. They admitted most of them hadn't been played before, or had been just written, and you could tell some songs were still taking shape as each of the three members would throw in improvised flourishes here and there; especially noticeable when Shaun and Gordie had a brief back and forth before one of the new songs. Most of the new songs were very much in Mason's blues-influenced rock vein, but definitely sounded like they were evolving and stretching their musical legs, as it were. Especially with the the funk infused and playful "Sweet Little Thing". I also liked the titles of a lot of the new songs; "Only The Young Die Good", "Shut Up & Kiss Me" and "When The Night Fell, It Fell On Me" being a few good ones.
The set was bookended with more older songs, with one of my favourites, "Ease Your Mind" and then drawing the set to a close with "This Mourning", which segued into a little bit of Big Sugar's "I'm A Ram" before an awesome ending. I would have been content with that 45 minute set, but the band wasn't, as they  took a break and were back for more.

Opening with "Smile", the second set was again loaded with new songs. There was also the usual banter and joking from the band, as Shaun introduced one song being for "douches who text while driving. And people who get back into damaging relationships... and then text the person while driving". But when they had to restart the song for Shaun to switch guitars, they added: people who tune guitars while driving or drive with out of tune guitars.
The night came to an end with an extended "Change" and Gordie, at one point, behind the keys and playing bass simultaneously. And making it seem like nothing much.

Even though I have been a fan of the band for over ten years, and seen them at least a dozen times live in that span, their live shows always manage to blow away my expectations, and a lot of that lies on Shaun Verreault. More specifically, his guitar playing. With multiple solos throughout the night, Verreault makes it look absolutely effortless, and less that he is playing the guitar, but coaxing the sounds from it.I wouldn't hesitate to say he is one of my favourite guitarists to watch live.
After hearing these new songs in their infancy, I am very much looking forward to hearing the final product, which they said will be out later this year.

And I would definitely recommend anyone with free time tonight heading down to The Yale for night two.