Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Howard Sparnenn Benefit Concert

I've never been a unadvertised private invite-only gig before.

Howard Sparnenn, father of Breathing Space's lead singer Olivia, as well as drummer for the 70s blues-rock band Flight, died tragically in his early 50s of a brain tumour at the beginning of May. He was a familiar sight at gigs, and although I only met him him just over half-a-dozen times, he made me feel like I was a lifelong friend. It was a great privilege to have known him.

Although I've already seen Breathing Space four times this year, I felt this benefit show for the brain tumour charity Andreas's Gift was something I just had to go to. Especially when I'd been personally invited.

It had a very different feel to a regular gig; I guessing everyone there knew Howard Sparnenn; a lot of family friends, although there were quite a big group of Breathing Space fans, with just about all the regulars present. Two big screens either side of the stage shows a series of pictures of Howard, ranging from recent gig photos to holiday snaps from years ago, which served to remind us of why we were here.

I estimated there were about two hundred people there, I'm told they sold all the tickets, and raised more than £3000 for charity. The downside was the with a lot of people there not being fans of the music, the gig was marred slightly by a lot of talking when the band were playing - Livvy Sparnenn actually had to ask people to be quiet at one point.

Breathing Space played two sets, with much the same setlist as they'd been playing this year, with the addition of the cover of "Autumn Leaves", specially requested by Livvy's mum Jeanette. Between the two sets we saw a one-off reunion of Howard's 70's band Flight, a blues-rock four-piece playing a mix of originals and covers, including some of Howard's songs.

I'd noticed the whole of Mostly Autumn were present in the audience; in fact Heather Findlay was sitting right next to me during Breathing Space's second set, making me wonder if I should really have worn that Marillion t-shirt to the gig. I wasn't expecting The Mostlies to take to the stage for a couple of numbers, the very appropriate "Tearing at the Faerytale" and "Heroes Never Die".

Finally Breathing Space returned for their now-traditional encore of "The Gap Is Too Wide". When I first heard this live, I wondered whether they could really do the song justice without the choir for the end section, but they've made it work with the (very prog) big walls of Mellotron.

Musically this was definitely Livvy's night, a very emotional performance which must have been very difficult to do, especially songs like "Belief" and "On the Blue Horizon". One of the band spoke to me afterwards telling me how much he agreed with a recent post in my own blog about Amy Winehouse. While I didn't name any names in that post, we both knew who I meant.

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