22-20s, Willy Mason, Cathy Davey

Mike Mantin 23/10/2004

Willy Mason, an acoustic and immeasurably talented singer-songwriter, begins his set playing to an uninterested bar, seven teenage girls who won't stop hugging each other and a crazy American tourist obsessed with final song Oxygen. But in the moments between songs, he has a smirk on his face like he knows things will very soon perk up. And they immediately do: the room half-fills up as his brave lone stage presence and sweet Buckley voice attract new fans. By the end, there's an impressive scramble for copies of his debut EP and the volume of applause gets louder and louder with each gorgeous tune he plays. Looking like an equally likeable young Jeff Buckley, the 19-year-old's collection of songs are filled with teenage angst (one was written in a detention hall) and poignant young love. The tourist finally gets her wish when Oxygen arrives: it's a delicate look at the world with Mason stating, "I wanna be cooler than TV for all the kids that are wondering what they're going to be". He may well get his wish.

Not much goes right for Cathy Davey. Both her guitar string and her shoe break, her keyboardist is obviously off her head on exotic herbs and the only comment audible from the audience is "she's well hot". True, she's a glamorous starlet-in-waiting in a genre filled with people that look like school janitors, but her songs need work if she wants to be promoted to the big league. Various album tracks from debut Something Ilk pass by without too much of an impact. Although she gets it right on singles Clean And Neat and Cold Man's Nightmare, her vocals and tame backing band turn them into rather dull pop rather than the adventurous singer-songwriterism the broadsheets promised. Rougher tunes could transform her into something worth keeping an eye on.

The 22-20s arrive looking and sounding like the laid-back bluesman BRMC could have been if they hadn't run away from an inflatable penis. Most are clad in leather jackets, the keyboardist (what is it with them?) has a cigarette perpetually stuck to his mouth, and smiling and talking is certainly off their agenda. They've got the image sorted, then, and the racket they make is an exciting one. Over the course of the gig, they coolly rattle their way through much-loved singles Shoot Your Gun, Why Don't You Do It For Me? and 22 Days, which (bizarrely) attracts a group of skinhead yobs who attempt to start a moshpit. They've certainly found their stride (after all, they are over 15 dates into their mammoth UK tour): nerves are pretty much absent which means Martin's singing is spot-on. This is most noticeable in acoustic, sensitive ballad Friends, in which he compliments his guitar strumming by making his voice sound like a worn-out gramophone. Its an incredible highlight which even shuts the 14-year-olds up.

Not a single favourite is left out and no notes are wasted as they confidently delight the faithful. Luckily, some of the band's bored expressions are dwarfed by the spectacle of the bassist spending the entire evening throwing a different body shape at every single chord change. Like many shows at the Concorde2, there's a pleasing feeling that the band may be playing at the soulless enormodome down the road on the next tour. A farfetched prospect, perhaps, but no one here can deny that they're turning into an unstoppable blues-rock machine at a rapid rate. (MikeMantin)