Breathing Space – The Duchess, 06/12/09

…and as the weekend draws to a close, another three of us head of to the Duchess to attend the final gig of “Mostly-fest”. This is one of those rare occasions when I can convince my wife to go to a gig with me as Breathing Space are a band she likes.

At least that’s who we were expecting. No support act had been mentioned or otherwise advertised. So, it was a bit of a surprise to find that, very late in the day, Chris Johnson and Anne-Marie Helder had been booked as openers.

Those of you keeping up will recognise those name as two of the members of The Parade, who also opened here on Friday evening. Tonight, the duo performed songs from the band’s album The Fabric, acoustically and for the first time (you couldn’t tell…).

For this set Chris played guitar and Anne-Marie played, errrm, an egg and a banana. I knew she was talented but, but, a banana??? Yes, and there’s untampered photographic proof opposite. Both of them sang and the acoustic versions of the songs were just as good as the full band versions we heard on Friday. It really is a cracking album (I managed to grab a few words with Chris to tell him so and got him to sign my copy) and it must have been hard to pick which tracks to play, but they certainly managed to pick some of my favourites, including Cut, The Dogs, The Diamond and the excellent Start Again.

This was a set of brilliant musicianship, tinged with more than a dab of humour (most of it involving the banana – you can guess). Chris and Anne-Marie obviously enjoy being on stage with each other as there was an over-riding sense of comfort and friendship in their performance. An unexpected and very pleasant start to the evening.

So, to the final act of the weekend. Breathing Space were performing the last date of their Below The Radar tour, promoting their third album of the same name. We’ve seen the band so many times (although this is only the second time that we have paid for a ticket – not that I’m complaining) that watching them perform is getting to be like slipping into a comfortable, if somewhat loud and increasingly hard-edged, dressing gown. As with my last posting, there is little to add to any past reviews, so I’m going to fill a bit of space up with some photos.

Blasting onto stage with a triumphant version of Forgive Or Surrender, the band performed many favourites from the first two albums, including Wasted All The Time, Coming Up For Air, Searching For My Shadow, the sublime Belief (which can now never be sung without bringing a tear to the eye) and a incredible version of You Still Linger, which ended the first set with a superb instrumental section. Mixed in with these were a number of songs from the new album (obviously). Some of these were already vaguely familiar – I hadn’t bought the album until tonight but the band had played some of the songs the last time we saw them in the Roman Bath and the “light” version of the band had also performed some acoustically in the Punchbowl a few weeks back.

Songs from Below The Radar included Paul Teasdale’s Clear, and the Sparnenn/Jennings penned The Night Takes You Home and Questioning Eyes. I’m sure there were more but, once again, my memory fails me.

However, every track, no matter what album it came from, sounded brilliant (possibly due to my proximity to the stage and speakers) and the larger stage area and sound system in the Duchess allowed the band a lot more freedom to express themselves than the Roman Bath.

Livvy’s voice, while still losing the vocals behind the music at times, seems to get clearer every time we see her perform. The Jennings brothers are near-maestros on the keyboards, while Teasdale’s bass-playing is excellent (if a little funky in one place). Cassells’ drumming provided the perfect base for the songs (and it was nice to finally see a different drummer during the weekend) and Bryan Josh once again played guitar almost in the background, coming forwards for just a few solos when required rather than dominating the stage as he does with Mostly Autumn.

The gig ended on a somewhat bizarre note. Almost as the final note of encore song Questioning Eyes faded from the speakers and the band moved forward to take their bows, the lights went out and an alarm started sounding. (To be honest, if it was a fire alarm, it was a little ineffective – I could hardly hear it until somebody pointed it out to me and nobody seemed to make a move for the exits…). The end result was the band taking the applause and cheers in almost total darkness. I would love to know what happened when it was resolved but, alas, I left in a rush in a vain attempt to catch the last bus home. Debbie had left earlier to relieve our babysitter who was expecting us home at about the time the gig actually finished and I ended up paying a taxi-fare.

So, to summarise the weekend I would have to say it was totally and completely awesome. Despite the number of crossover artists in the four bands we saw, it was incredible how different the music from each was from the others. From the guitar-led prog rock of Mostly Autumn to the keyboard-led Breathing Space, with a mix of both in The Parade and a bit of a harder edge to Josh & Co, between us we managed to see some pretty impressive performances. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

It may have ended up costing me a small fortune in tickets, CDs, drinks and transport but would I do it again?

Of course I would. In a heartbeat.

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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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