While it’s not quite the mini Mostly-fest of last year, today sees Iain Jennings taking advantage of the fact that Mostly Autumn played York last night (and, possibly, that some of the crossover fans are still in York) to organise an afternoon gig for Breathing Space. So Debbie (who, for some reason, was under the impression that this was to be Livvy’s farewell gig) and I find ourselves at Fibbers for a rare afternoon out together.
Support today was provided my Marc Atkinson who I’ve seen once before, who performed on one of my favourite albums of the last couple of years and who has one of the best biographies I have ever read. Having being involved in a number of projects over the years, it seems odd to me that Marc has weaved around the sort of “stardom” experienced by the likes of Bryan Josh without actually making it as big. Having said that, both his biography and his attitude when performing both seem to show that he is happy with his lot and it may just be that he prefers to more grounded and, for want of a better word, local than Mostly Autumn.
The last time I saw Marc he was performing acoustic covers in The Terrace. This afternoon, he mined his own material to give us a thoroughly enjoyable (still acoustic) set. Sadly, due to what seems to have been an incorrectly advertised start time, we missed the first song, but the second came from Gabriel, one of Marc’s previous bands, while the next came from his much anticipated Riversea project (the album of which, he informed us, is due to be released at Easter next year, with many guest appearances). Other newer songs were the reminiscing of When We Were Five and Through A Mirror Darkly, while Clockwork Man dated back to 2006. For his final song, Marc reverted to a cover and produced a very good version of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb (perhaps a brave choice given the Worst Band Ever video which has been doing the rounds on the internet, but I’m happy to say that this afternoon’s version was infinitely better than that one…) Despite some guitar problems – apparently you shouldn’t re-string guitars on a cold day – which seemed to both frustrate and slightly embarrass Marc, this was a very varied and, as I say, enjoyable set. The vocals were very clear and the choice of songs complemented each other. The first time I’ve heard Marc’s own material and it impressed me enough to buy both of his available albums.
The departure of Livvy Sparnenn from Breathing Space (and, indeed, Bryan Josh from the live shows) had necessitated the second line-up change of the weekend. Replacing Bryan is Adam Dawson (who regular readers will know that we have already checked out), while Heidi Widdop is now the lead vocalist. Again, I have seen Heidi before, opening for Mostly Autumn last year as part of The Secrets. It had already been said that Heidi’s voice was completely different to Livvy’s and that this was leading to a new sound for the band, but I hadn’t realised how much of a change it would be.
The band opened with Run From Yourself, my favourite track from Beneath The Radar, but the track sounded more rocky than normal, something that was to be reiterated with the new material that was to be peppered throughout the set. Before that, though, we took a trip back to the original Breathing Space album for a version of No Promises which featured some wonderfully atmospheric guitar work from Adam. Heidi then took up an acoustic guitar for the new song Unnatural Disaster, before Adam stepped up to perform vocals on Silver Skies, one of his own songs which has been revamped as a full band version, and an excellent version it is. Next up was Searching For My Shadow, proving that all the previous albums were fair game for the new line-up (and surprising me as I thought this track might have left the band with Livvy). Again, it sounded as though the track had been reworked slightly to provide for Heidi’s stronger voice. The title track from Beneath The Radar was followed by When I Hold On To You, from Coming Up For Air and then another new track (the title of which I didn’t hear). Finally, we got the second rendition of the weekend of Questioning Eyes and hearing the two so closely together showed just how different Heidi and Livvy’s voices are – both superb versions, but very different. After a brief respite, the band returned to the stage for an encore and, in my opinion, a very welcome return of The Gap Is Too Wide – lovely to hear it live again.
This wasn’t a perfect set. Heidi was struggling slightly with her voice and the sound was a little dodgy. At first I thought that the latter was due to my standing right next to one of Fibbers’ main speakers (which, I can confirm, can give you the impression that it is driving a spike through your eardrum) but somebody who was standing at the bar has also criticised the sound. It seemed fine for Marc’s set but didn’t seem to cope too well with the increased volume of Breathing Space. Despite that, it was a really good performance and, despite the band being off the radar, let alone below it, for a few months now (at least locally) with very little news or updates being released, it bodes well for the future. The new, rockier sound is brilliant, Heidi’s voice will be even stronger once her chest is better and Adam’s playing was good enough to give any of the previous guitarists a run for their money. Given the number of new tracks played, a fourth album can’t be far away and I, for one, can’t wait.