It’s very easy for me to enjoy a Mostly Autumn gig. Despite being a relative newcomer to the band, only coming across them sometime between Heart Full Of Sky and Glass Shadows (despite sharing a home town with the band), they soon became one of my favourite current bands and I have gone on to buy every album – I think I bought the last available copy of The Last Bright Light, luckily – and have seen them every time they have played York since their 2008 Grand Opera House gig. Indeed, the last few of those end of year gigs had turned into an annual “Dad and daughter” gig night, which has been great given that she is still too young to go to many of the gigs I attend. (I remain hopeful that the trend is going to continue this year, despite the fact that she seems to be wavering at the moment.)
I don’t think I could be said to be one of the band’s hard core of fans. Although I recognise many of the regular attendees of the gigs, some of whom travel miles to see the band in York, I doubt that more than a couple know me by sight, let alone name. I’m also of the opinion that, while Mostly Autumn have recorded some great tracks, they have rarely produced a great album. Having said that, I’m quite happy to forgive, perhaps even ignore, certain things that I have heard other fans complain about. Mutterings about the live set relying on a number of familiar songs, becoming slightly stale, for example. Those familiar songs are often among my favourites, so I was quite happy to listen to them. I also didn’t notice (or maybe chose not to notice) certain things that were criticised about the 2013 Grand Opera House gig, enjoying that one as much as the others.
So, it’s no surprise at all that I walked away from tonight’s gig having been thoroughly entertained. What was surprising, though, was why…
Firstly, the venue helped. The Grand Opera House gigs are good, but I always prefer seeing rock bands in a “proper” venue. Standing is always better. It just feels right and allows the audience to express themselves better. Yes, I’ve seen Mostly Autumn at the old Fibbers and at The Duchess but, in my opinion, the new Fibbers knocks those venues into a cocked hat and tonight the sound and lighting were top notch. OK, the stage may have been a little cramped for a seven-piece band – a fact exemplified by the time when Angela Gordon seemed to struggle to find a way out from behind her keyboard rig and past Chris Johnson to come front and centre for a flute performance – but that didn’t really hamper the performance.
And that leads to the second reason. Mostly Autumn’s “revolving door” membership had come into play again. I had been told that Chris was returning to the fold, but had forgotten. I had also been told that Angela was returning, but didn’t realise it was happening so soon. It wasn’t so much that either of them were back but the fact that their return meant that two tracks returned (I assume – I don’t think I had heard either live before) to the live set. The Johnson-fronted Silver Glass is one of my favourite tracks and one of the things that drew me in when I first listened to the band’s earlier output was the Celtic influenced instrumental tracks, so to hear Angela’s flute-led one tonight was brilliant. If only I could remember which one it was…
Then there was Alex Cromarty. While he’s not the first drummer to perform with one hand, he’s the only one I know of to do so within minutes of sustaining the injury. That wasn’t tonight – it was, in fact, just over a month ago in Wales, when he fell off his riser, breaking his hand just fifteen minutes before the set started – but he was still bandaged up and yet still provided an energetic, powerful drum line, particularly impressive as Home built to its crescendo finish.
Home comes from the latest studio album, Dressed In Voices. Personally, I think this is the band’s strongest album for a long time, perhaps since The Last Bright Light, so to have so much of tonight’s set made up of track from it, definitely silencing the “familiar tracks” argument was great. Personally, given that it is a concept album, I would have like to hear the full thing, unbroken by older tracks but that’s a minor gripe.
Strangely, amongst all this, there was one noticeable absence. I can’t remember a single extended guitar solo from Bryan who, in terms of performance was more animated and expressive off the guitar than he was one it as he pointed, waved and subtly acted out some of his lyrics. There was little in the way of interaction with the audience. It took Bryan until the end of the sixth track to speak and Livvy, whose emotion-filled vocals were soaring tonight, took even longer. Having said that, the audience themselves seemed almost spellbound – there was barely time to breathe between the first few tracks and so it took until the end of First Day At School before there was more than a spattering of applause and then, shortly afterwards, Angela’s flute section received a huge cheer that seemed as much a “welcome back” as appreciation for her performance.
Other tracks not from the standard release of Dressed In Voices were dotted around the set but they were unfamiliar ones, at least from recent years – Pass The Clock was particularly impressive – but for any fans who yearned for the standards, it was the three song encore that would have been the most enjoyable. Another lovely version of Evergreen was followed by Questioning Eyes, a song which Mostly Autumn have adopted from the Breathing Space catalogue, and it was nice to see Livvy’s sister and mother come together in the audience, perhaps to offer mutual support during what must be both an emotional and incredibly proud moment because of the song, the way Livvy performs it and the introduction she gives it. It was also nice to see them raise their glasses in salute at its end. “Have you had enough?” asked Bryan. Of course we hadn’t and that fact that it was obvious what was coming didn’t matter. After acknowledging Alex Cromarty’s heroics on drums, there was the inevitable and still enjoyable rendition of the band’s anthem, Heroes Never Die, bringing to an end not only another enjoyable Mostly Autumn gig, but one of the best I can remember.