Mostly Autumn–The Duchess, 22/06/13

Photos included in this posting were taken by Marc McGarraghy, whose work can be found on Facebook or the Yellow Mustang website. Thanks, as always, go to him for allowing me to use them.

It’s probably no coincidence that Mostly Autumn’s Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn chose the Summer Solstice as the date for their wedding. After all, with it falling on a Friday this year, it gives them the whole weekend to spend time together and recover from the big day, right? Wrong. Instead they chose to spend the Saturday evening, with the rest of the band, performing a celebration concert for their fans, friends and family.

As The Duchess filled up with familiar faces The Judge took to the microphone to introduce the newly-weds, who came on stage to generous applause and cheers, Bryan, long hair tied back and beard neatly trimmed, in a long-tailed jacket and Olivia looking stunning in her wedding dress. “She really hasn’t thought it all through, has she?” quips Bryan at one point, to the amusement of the crowd.

Bryan Josh – Already looking contented with married life

Launching straight into the set, the band started with Winter Mountain before moving on to Never The Rainbow, Olivia coping well with a boots-and-dress combination that wasn’t, presumable, designed with moving backwards and forwards to and from a microphone in mind. Slowing it down, and giving Bryan a bit of a breather, they moved onto Unquiet Tears, a piano-driven track from the Ghost Moon Orchestra album, which really showcases Olivia’s vocals. After the criticisms of the sound here last weekend, it’s near-perfect tonight. Where I’m standing every instrument can be heard in the mix and the backing vocals from Anne-Marie Helder – playing “all sorts of things” for what is, presumably, a final time with the band – are clearer than I’ve ever heard them. Simple Ways gives way to Changing Fast, during which the lyric “lucky man” sees Bryan throw a knowing glance in Olivia’s direction. The ever-lovely crowd pleaser Evergreen is followed by a departure from the Mostly Autumn back catalogue as Olivia is joined by Iain Jennings – who sneakily adds a few notes from Here Comes The Bride into his introduction – on keyboards and Anne-Marie on flute and backing vocals for Rain Song, more familiar to me as a Breathing Space song than from when Olivia and Chris Johnson performed it when supporting Mostly Autumn. Slow Down, from Bryan’s solo album Through These Eyes follows, with Olivia’s haunting vocals at the end sounding superb. In fact, with Deep In Borrowdale up next, her vocals seem to be getting stronger all the time.

The newly-crowned Mrs Olivia Sparnenn-Josh

Drops Of The Sun gives another example of how good the sound can be, with Alex Cromarty’s pounding drum opening seeming to reverberate around the venue. After Nowhere To Hide, Bryan uses an e-bow for the opening to Wild Eyed Skies, producing a lovely guitar sound over a huge bass rumble before Iain’s piano and Olivia’s vocals come in. Passengers, another crowd-pleaser, is followed by The Dark Before The Dawn, during which Anne-Marie’s flute floats gracefully through the rockier song. Olivia asks whether we are all having a good evening – and the resulting cheer seems unanimous – before dedicating her tour de force, Questioning Eyes (the final of which sees Alex going wild on the drums), to her Mum and late Dad, who had made the previous day a day to remember. She’s still going strong, seemingly enjoying every minute on stage, while Bryan has occasionally been taking to a tactically-positioned chair, looking tired or, perhaps, nursing a hangover. Despite him claiming not to have been drinking yesterday, Olivia’s, “Yeah, right!” says otherwise.

After a brief break, the band return to the stage for the somewhat inevitable encore. “What an evening. What a weekend!” enthuses Bryan before playing Heroes Never Die with an incredibly powerful performance. The evening draws to a close with a song that, embarrassingly, I have forgotten, perhaps due to the fact that I was marvelling at the, if anything, even more powerful performance by Olivia who, at times, seemed to be fighting her emotions. Afterwards, with the band taking their customary bows, The Judge and another roadie showered them all with confetti, before the happy couple were able to take their own bows, thanking the audience with their wide smiles and, eventually, sharing a kiss.

The happy couple.

I have seen Mostly Autumn every year since 2008 but this is only the second time I have seen them perform away from York’s Grand Opera House. I much prefer seeing them in a “proper” music venue. Not only does it feel more like a rock gig, but it’s possible to get so much closer to the band, giving you the chance to see their performances much more clearly. Personally, this is the best gig I have seen by the band – it must have been the celebratory atmosphere tonight.

Mostly Autumn – Bryan Josh, Alex Cromarty, Andy Smith, Olivia Sparnenn-Josh, Anne-Marie Helder, Iain Jennings and Liam Davison.

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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