Breathing Space – The Roman Bath, 11/07/09

It’s been a bit of a strange week, really, with Tuesday being the strangest day.

(Regular readers, please bear with me here. I suspect this is going to be a meander. I think there’s a point that I’m trying to get to and, you never know, I might even manage it. New or occasional readers, please don’t let this post put you off – I’m not normally this bad…)

I left work on Tuesday feeling mentally exhausted. I had been looking at a particularly knotty problem for two straight days without getting anywhere (and still haven’t solved it). There was also quite a lot of tension within the team, something that I was trying to stay out of but, when you work in such a small team, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid things. On top of that I had volunteered for what turned out to be a bit of an emotional battering from a friend who was/is going through a bad time. Not that I minded, you understand – I had offered an ear and a virtual shoulder and was glad that I have been able to help in whatever small way. (I should also mention that if said friend is reading this and isn’t happy being mentioned they should let me know – there’s always the edit button…)

So, as I said, I left for home feeling drained. Then, roughly halfway home, a song came on the i-pod. Written by keyboard player Iain Jennings for Mostly Autumn’s second album and in memory of his mother, The Gap Is Too Wide is my favourite piece of music. It’s an achingly beautiful song about loss with a second half instrumental that somehow manages to convey sadness and joy in equal measures. Just a few minutes into the song I suddenly found myself in tears. Luckily there was nobody around.

Now, I’m not normally an emotional person. I rarely get stressed and I definitely don’t normally wear my heart on my sleeve like this. Hmmm, I wonder if this is the start of a mid-life crisis…

Anyway, The Gap (as it is affectionately known), although being a Mostly Autumn song, has been the regular encore song for Breathing Space – Iain Jennings’ new band – every time we have seen them. And tonight, a full contingent of us (including Debbie – Breathing Space are one of the few bands we both like) were at the Roman Bath to see them again. Would I find myself coming over all unnecessary and make a fool of myself? Say tuned…

When Debbie and I arrived, York centre was still full of that afternoon’s race-goers and we had to queue to get into the Bath. With the sound check in full flow and audible outside, it wasn’t long before a large group of people left the pub and we were allowed in, to find Roj already inside. A nifty move by Debbie soon found us couple of tables close to the stage area and, with the music forcing the racegoers out, we were set.

Breathing Space are in a bit of a flux at the moment, having lost guitarist Mark Rowen and Saxophonist John Hart earlier in the year, Liam Davidson (Mostly Autumn) had been standing in on guitars but he is currently unavailable so Bryan Josh (also Mostly Autumn) is on guitar duties at the moment. It has to be said that a guitarist of Bryan’s standing could easily have overshadowed tonight’s performance but didn’t – his performance was subtle and almost understated and the man himself almost faded into the background during most of the set. That’s not to take anything away from the music, however. When solos were called for, they were of the man’s usual high standard.

In fact, the whole band was on top form (although I can’t tell where Iain’s keyboards end and brother Ben’s start) and this was an excellent performance – by far the best Breathing Space gig we have seen at the Bath. Livvy looked incredibly relaxed and, although she never seems to get the best of the audio in this venue, her voice soared. It was also nice to see her smiling so much as she can sometimes, in my opinion, look a bit too serious on stage.

We were treated to a nearly two-hour set of songs mainly from the first two albums, but sprinkled with new songs from the soon to be released Below The Radar. These appeared to be a bit rockier than previous songs, perhaps not surprisingly given the band’s revised emphasis on guitar and keyboards (the reason Hart left the band). Although difficult to tell from a first hearing, it sounds as though the new album could well be worth waiting for.

Some of my favourites were missing and I wonder whether we’ll hear On The Blue Horizon (written by Rowen) again. However, it’s hard to criticise when the likes of You Still Linger, Belief, Coming Up For Air and Searching For My Shadow are included in the set. All are brilliant songs, written and sung from the heart.

With the end of the gig fast approaching, it was time to steel myself. The band announced that they had finished and the usual cries for more ensued. After a very short time, with everybody back on stage, Livvy announced that they would do one more song. One from the new album. Shock! I can’t remember the title but it was a superb way to end the gig – a fusion of vocals, keyboards and guitar (obviously with the backing of Barry Cassels on drums and Paul Teasdale on bass) that seemed to go on forever and yet still finished too quickly. One more reason to anticipate the new release.

…and then it was time to get removed from the Bath. We finally braved the rain to run and shelter in a shop doorway, just before an increasingly irate bouncer decided to throw us out. There followed the usual insults, a round of Tommy Cooper jokes, music discussions and remembrances as we watched the band pack their equipment into cars and drive away. Eventually, I caught sight of Iain Jennings and wandered over to ask whether The Gap had been put to bed as the band’s encore. It turns out that they are simply resting it, wanting to end gigs on a bit more of a lively note. Given the significance of the song to the man himself, I hope he didn’t mind me telling him the story of how it affected me this week, even if it did mean us both getting rained on.

Breathing Space next play York on the 6th of December, at The Duchess as part of a tour to promote the new album. I’ll definitely be there.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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