words: Sarah Rix // photos: Ben Gunzburg @benshootspeople
“It was this approach to his audience – an off-the-cuff energy and a genuine sense of enthusiasm about what he and his band were doing...”
He’s not a household name quite yet, but if Masego’s show in Melbourne is any indication, pretty soon even your mom will be dropping the sax-toting, genre-bending musician’s moniker into everyday conversation.
Why? Well, he’s just so damn likeable.
Opening the night was Milan Ring, a Sydney-sider who knows her way around a looping board. A one-woman act (on stage with an array of electronics and a guitar), her R&B tunes were part introspection, part big-beat.
While there was a bit of a tendency to waffle on with her voice – letting songs meander out of her grasp around about the two-thirds mark – she still proved a captivating presence, especially when she dropped in more energy to certain songs. There’s more to hear from her, too, and one new song, literally finished the night before, is indicative that she’s willing and capable of further pushing herself as a songwriter.
Touring his 2018 full-length debut, Lady Lady, with a sold out stop to 170 Russell, Masego – a Jamaican-born, US-based act – was part band nerd, part holy-crap-this-guy-is cool. He also brought in shades of Childish Gambino meeting Anderson .Paak with a side dose of Leon Bridges. So yeah: a lot going on. And a lot to live up to.
It’s exciting, though, to see a young artist with such an assured, confident stage presence. It was this approach to his audience – an off-the-cuff energy and a genuine sense of enthusiasm about what he and his band were doing – that really sold the material and made you want to get involved with it.
Starting his set with “Tadow” set the tone for the night. On record, the track is soulful and measured. Live, he and his live band turn it’s into a totally different beast – celebratory, exciting, and somehow finding a perfect place between jazz-cool and total party banger. I didn’t even know that was possible or those circles ever overlapped.
From “Shut Up and Groove” to “Queen Tings” to “Old Age” to an improvised track done with a looping pedal, Masego oozed stage presence. He made everyone in the building (as well as everyone watching the Insta Story of their friends who were in the building) fall in love with him.
It got to the point where the crowd was even cheering him on as he drunk water (aptly turned into another improvisation, Masego offering “drinking water right now!” as the audience goaded him on.)
With all that said – there’s still room for development. Most recognizably: he’s young and his songs still revolve around the tropes of picking up women and getting laid. There are some things to be desired in his lyrical content, but when it comes to delivery… Well, he’s got stage presence. Heaps and heaps and heaps of stage presence.
Ending with a final saxophone solo on “Navajo”, it was hard not to leave the Melbourne venue with a huge smile on your face. Masego delivers in leaps and bounds. He’s a talented musician with endless energy and a connection to his crowd. It’s the type of approach to live music you hope all artists take – delivering a show you go to and feel truly part of.