Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mostly Autumn, Manchester and London, 27th and 28th Feb 2009

Although I've seen Mostly Autumn nearly thirty times now, this is actually the first time I've seen the band two nights in succession in two different cities. Both the Manchester and London shows on the 27th and 28th of February were rescheduled from September last year due to Heather Findlay's maternity leave.

Mostly Autumn had not played Manchester since a low-key date at Jilly's Rockworld back in 2004, which happened to be the very first time I ever saw the band. This time they played Academy 3, on a stage where I've seen the likes of Michael Schenker, Paradise Lost, It Bites and Blue Öyster Cult over the past years.

A big surprise when the band took to the stage was that Gavin Griffiths was back behind the drumkit, replacing Henry Bourne. I'd always liked Gavin's drumming with his previous stint with the band in spring 2007, and while Henry was in many ways an ideal drummer for the Mostlies, if anyone could replace him, it was Gavin. And he didn't disappoint.

Unfortunately Heather had caught a very nasty throat infection the day before the Manchester gig, and although she managed to sing for something like two thirds of the set, backing singer Olivia Sparnenn stood in on lead vocals for a few songs. It's a tribute to this band that they can still put on a highly enjoyable show despite having their lead singer partially incapacitated, and hats off to Livvy for standing in at virtually zero notice. If it wasn't quite one of the best Mostly Autumn gigs I've ever been to, it was certainly one of those for the Mostly Autumn history book.

Saturday's showcase gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire was their first London appearance for more than a year. With fans descending from all parts of the country, including a busload from York, there was a real buzz of anticipation before the gig, and a lot of faces I hadn't seen for a long time. Nice to meet baby Harlan, who gave me an enormous grin! I met up with a couple of gaming friends who were seeing the band for the first time. I decided it was wise not to mention Heather's vocal problems of the night before to anyone before the gig.

While I love the intimate atmosphere of many of the small clubs I see the band play, it's great to see the same band on a big stage before a sizeable crowd. And they rose to the occasion with an absolute barnstormer of a performance. Heather's voice turned out to be in far better shape than the previous night, with little evidence that she was suffering from any throat problems at all. And the rest of the eight-piece band were also on superb form. This was as tight and powerful a performance as I've ever seen them do, and at least as good a show as from any band I saw last year. From the now-traditional opener 'Fading Colours', the energy level barely dropped for the next two and a quarter hours. The only glitch was the rattling snare drum on 'Above the Blue' forcing a second take of the song.

The setlist contained a few surprises, with oldies like the electrified folk-rock of 'Winter Mountain', along with 'The Last Bright Light' and 'Half the Mountain' from their atmospheric celtic-prog era which haven't featured in the live set for several years. 'Winter Mountain' was especially powerful live propelled by Gavin's drumming, as was "Passengers" hard rocker 'Answer the Question'. The rest of the set was pretty familiar to those who's seen the band at the tail end of last year, Glass Shadows songs 'Flowers for Guns', 'Unoriginal Sin', 'Above the Blue' and 'Tearing at the Faerytale', alongside perennials such as 'Nowhere to Hide', 'Evergreen', 'Spirit of Autumn Past' and of course 'Heroes Never Die' (That flute intro always gives me goosebumps). The final encore was unexpected, a cover of Genesis' 1980 hit 'Turn It On Again' (specially for Jasonaparkes!), and I have to say Heather is a far better singer than Phil Collins.

Although the band had intended to release the recording of Shepherd's Bush as a live album, the band have decided that although the gig itself was great for those present in the hall, the recordings aren't quite good enough to release as an album. So they've postponed the album and plan to record a few dates on the upcoming spring tour. With the band on great live form, with what might just be their best ever live lineup, the tour will be one to see.


CaroleBristol said...

We have tickets for the Gloucester Guildhall gig at the end of May.

Really looking forward to it!

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Gloucester last year was one of the best of the tour. Not sure which dates I'm going to - time and finances mean I'm going to have to pick and choose.