On a warm summer evening in the centre of London, just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden, you could be forgiven for not wanting to enter the underground cave that is Borderline, but you’d be making a big mistake. Mason Jennings, all the way from Bob Dylan’s home state of Minnesota, is due on stage at 9pm promoting the album Always Been that was released back in December. It had been seven years since he played on these shores, and by the audience reaction you could tell he had been missed.
Jennings, who released his first album way back in 1997, has somewhat mastered the trade of the singer-songwriter and appears to be doing it for fun these day. He has a soft, warm folk sound that soothes the soul, yet his melodies are ever catchy. And if you listen very carefully, you can even hear the Dylan-like Minnesota twang in his voice. He is very much a laid-back Bob Dylan. Despite being laid-back he had no problem gaining control of the audience for the entirety of his ninety minute set.
Strolling onto stage with a quick wave to the crowd and a little tune of his acoustic guitar, he began. Darkness Between Fireflies was the first highlight of the evening. It’s a song about accepting your new love’s past romances. Jennings relayed a story about playing the song to Scottish sixties singer-songwriter Donovan in a surreal situation that led to Donovan suggesting that it sounded like it was being played backwards. The theme stayed with jealousy with the playful Your New Man, about how your ex’s new romance can get in the way of your ‘carefree single days’.
Discussing the mixed emotions he felt after becoming a father he went into Which Way Will Your Heart Go, a beautifully honest song about coming to terms with fatherhood. Much like Dylan, Jennings has strong political opinions and plenty of protest songs in his repertoire. The Field with the refrain ‘If I was the President, if I was that man, I would walk out with those kids out across the sand’ is a great example of that. A well constructed protest song for the 21st century.
Other highlights of the night included the upbeat Keeping It Real and the sombre Jackson Square, as well as Wilderness and Rainboats from the new album. During the encore Jennings allowed the audience to request songs. The love song Fighter Girl and the easygoing California were clear favourites. Throughout the evening you could easily find yourself becoming lost in the relaxed sound and intimate lyrics of Mason Jennings music. His songs are very catchy and very relatable, so it’s no wonder that the audience seemed to know all words to every song. An excellent show by an excellent folk musician.