By Steve Scheibal, special to the American-Statesman
Nothing But Thieves took ACL Fest’s big Honda Stage early Saturday afternoon sounding like a band that would’ve been quite happy blaring out of a ’90s alternative rock station. But right around the time that the uninitiated were steeling themselves for Stone Temple Something-or-Other, Conor Mason started singing.
Mason sings with sweeping range and spot-on pitch without ever sounding technical. He packs fury into the band’s rockers and heart into its ballads, and his falsetto rovings are impressive without ever seeming contrived. Comparisons to Jeff Buckley are apt, though Mason sings with more fire.
That kind of voice is a handy thing to have around, and the English band takes full advantage of it. Rather than reheated grunge, Saturday’s set blended those punk and metal elements with full-throated Brit Rock. It created a fierce, full sound infused with clever hooks, propelled by sharp musicianship and an especially tight rhythm section.
Certainly, there were influences to pick out — a bit of Soundgarden here, some Blur there. But Mason’s voice makes it something else. It’s not necessarily different, but it still sounds new.