Mostly Autumn

Live at the London Astoria - 4 June 2005

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Review © Stephen Lambe 2005 | Images © Stephen Lambe 2005
HTML and Editing © Russ Elliot 2005 | Last updated: 11 July 2005

For four years, Musical Discoveries has charted the progress of Mostly Autumn. We have watched the twists and turns in their growth, usually with delight, occasionally with bewilderment but always with interest. However, at the Astoria Theatre in central London all the elements of Bryan Josh's vision for the band--the emotion, the power, the visuals and the professionalism came together in perfect synergy, in a thrilling and intense evening that will linger long in the memory.

Mostly Autumn have played there before, of course--a decent performance captured in the V Shows DVD (review. However, with no cameras to add pressure, this was a marginally more relaxed affair, despite the 2000-strong audience and the unusual nature of the evening, launching, as it was, both Mostly Autumn records and the excellent new album Storms Over Still Water.

Due to play a long set, the band came on stage at 7 pm. Having been expecting a couple of looseners--some older songs played by way of a warm up--before tackling the new material, they actually launched straight into a rousing version of "Out in the Green Sky," with Heather--looking stunning in a figure-hugging red outfit -handling her demanding vocal part with ease. She looked fantastic and sounded wonderful all night.

"Broken Glass" was followed by a couple of familiar songs from Passengers, which meant that the band, wisely, were not going to play the new album back to back. In fact, with the exception of "The End of the World," and the two instrumentals "Coming To" and "Tomorrow," which were not played at all, the new songs were performed in album sequence intermingled with a fairly standard--though reordered, Mostly Autumn set. Considering that only "Heart Life" had been performed live before, to play all this new material to such a high standard was a considerable achievement, and speaks volumes about the current level of commitment and professionalism within the band.

Some excellent special guests made the evening even much more special. Ben Matthews of Thunder lent his talents on the Les Paul to the hard rock of "Black Rain," and hung around for a rousing "Never the Rainbow"--how great to hear this song played with rhythm guitar complimenting Bryan Josh's lead, for a change. The stunning and talented Olivia Sparnenn, who helped lend depth to the backing vocals throughout the evening (and who changed her rather eye-catching outfits twice--the same amount of times as Heather), dueted on this song and sounded great. Troy Donockley, made his customary guest appearance, but surprised many with a delightful Uilleann Pipe cameo, which acted as a prelude to the triumphant climax of the evening, a wonderful sequence of the three longer songs from the new album "Candle to the Sky," "Carpe Diem" and "Storms Over Still Water."

A final note should go to Rachel Jones, who made her first appearance on stage for a year sharing backing vocal duties with Olivia. She had her moment in the limelight--sharing lead vocals with Heather on the opening to "Storms," a beautiful choice for her voice, and wonderfully performed. I shed a tear at that point, not just from the beauty of the song and its performance, but also from the pleasure of seeing Rachel back on stage. The projections that the band often use at their larger concerts were well integrated into the performance, and there were a couple of pleasing surprises amongst the encores--a rare live rendition of the gentle instrumental "The Spirit of Autumn Past Part 1," and a total surprise--a rendition of "We Come and We Go" from The Last Bright Light album.

The only fault in a remarkable evening was that the sound was decent rather than excellent, which seemed to be a fault of the PA rather than the mix, and failed to match the quality of the bands 165 minute performance, which was played without a break. However, Mostly Autumn cannot be praised too highly for this remarkable and emotional evening, which ranks second only to York Opera House in 2003 in all the live performances I have witnessed by the band. This truly was a fitting opening to the next chapter in the bands existence. Wonderful. .

Setlist: "Out of the Green Sky," "Broken Glass," "Caught In A Fold," "Something in Between," "Answer the Question," "Evergreen," "Simple Ways," "Distant Train," "Ghosts in Dreamland," "Heart Life," "Black Rain," "Never the Rainbow," "Shrinking Violet," "Heroes Never Die," "Dark Before the Dawn," Uilleann Pipe Instrumental, "Candle to the Sky," "Carpe Diem," "Storms Over Still water," "Spirit of Autumn Past," "Passengers," "We Come and We Go," "Mother Nature."

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