Monday, May 4, 2009

The Howard Sparnenn Memorial Concert, York

It's difficult to imagine a video of a drum solo being the perfect way to end a gig. I'm guessing the very concept is going to make 'spill regulars heads explode.

But the charity concert at The Duchess in York in memory of Howard Sparnenn, who died a year ago, wasn't any ordinary gig.

Six bands in total, all of which Howard had been involved with, with York's finest, Mostly Autumn, topping the bill. This was as much a social gathering as a regular gig; many, many familiar faces in the crowd, and a lot of people I hadn't had the chance to catch up with for ages. And the atmosphere for the whole evening was incredible; you did feel that it was really about Howard. And he was definitely there in spirit.

Smart Move and Freeway opened the evening with two entertaining sets of covers; Freeway were especially good with their mix of Thin Lizzy, UFO and Judas Priest songs, even though they made me feel old. I remember when too many of them first came out, and it was many years before Olivia Sparnenn was born. They were followed by Free Spirit and Flight, the latter reformed (again) for the occasion, with blues-rock sets made up of what I assumed was original material.

Breathing Space took the stage with a somewhat amended lineup due to some members being unavailable; Howard's daughter Olivia Sparnenn and the Jennings brothers were joined by Bryan and Andy from Mostly Autumn, and Harry James from Thunder on drums. With an improvised lineup this wasn't the best Breathing Space gig I've ever seen, and the set concentrated on keyboard-dominated songs from the first album with very little from "Coming Up for Air". Still Olivia was on fine form, and "The Gap Is Too Wide" with Anne-Marie Helder guesting on flute was wonderful. I always find her renditions of 'The Gap' incredibly moving. I know the song wasn't originally about Howard, but it still fits.

Mostly Autumn are in the middle of their tour, and played a shortened version of their touring set. The eight-piece band rose above a few irritating technical glitches to deliver a tight but emotionally powerful performance. The band have been on superb live form this year with their balance of celtic-flavoured prog and melodic hard rock, this one was well up to their usual standard. They finished in the only way they could on a night like this, with "Tearing at the Faerytale", the song written about Howard not long before he died, and "Heroes Never Die", which never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my head whenever I hear it.

The evening ended with a film of Howard's performing a drum solo, recorded in Matlock in Derbyshire some time in the 1980s. A reminder that Howard wasn't just a great bloke, but a superb drummer as well.


DarceysDad said...

Sorry, Tim, but I am contractually obliged by the mention of his name to shout -

"Ha-rry, Ha-rry, Ha-rry!"

Tim (Kalyr) said...

OK, DD. Explain.

DarceysDad said...

I'm a big Thunder fan. In my office there's a framed backstage picture of me and a bespectacled Harry James with the caption "An ageing, balding, speccy rocker . . . and Harry"