Saturday 7th June 2008
Drill Hall in Lincoln, UK
Back in Lincoln's Drill Hall for the third consecutive year, it seems the venue has become an annual stop-off in Mostly Autumn's gigging calendar. However, each year has seen their audience diminish in size and, tonight, the Drill Hall is only around a third full, with a stark age disparity in the crowd - older fans opt to sit at the back on tiered seating, and those more youthful stand near the front. This leaves a large area in between the 2 sets of people unoccupied which is a strange sight at any gig, and I'm left wondering if it would have been better if the venue had not opened the seating area. Since I last saw the band live, there have been significant changes in their lineup - Angela Gordon left permanently in early 2008 to concentrate on motherhood, and was replaced by talented musician Anne-Marie Helder; sticksman Gavin Griffiths also left around the same time after only a relatively short time occupying the drum stall and replaced by Henry Bourne; and completing the trio of departures was Chris Johnson who left to dedicate more time to his solo activities. The latter two exits led to previous members Iain Jennings and Liam Davison re-joining the band on keyboards and guitar respectively. Follow all that? Right, so there we have the 2008 version of Mostly Autumn. Playing their usual two sets, with an interval in between, the first is a surprisingly short stint of only 40 minutes, although the second half is about an hour and twenty minutes in duration. Combining older material with new tracks from their latest release, the atmospherically titled 'Glass Shadows', Mostly Autumn deliver the expected high standard of musicianship both collectively and individually, although there is something discernibly lacking in their performance. Anne-Marie Helder is perhaps the most lively on stage, dancing around during passages on which she doesn't play, while a now visibly pregnant Heather Findlay (she announces by 5 months) and bassist Andy Smith also remain fairly animated throughout the evening and look like they're enjoying performing, despite the small numbers in attendance. However, Bryan Josh, as with the last time I saw the band, looks thoroughly dejected, and almost as if the gig is a chore for him - his one-time amusing banter with the crowd is now non-existent. Perhaps I've simply caught the band when he's been having a couple of 'off' days. On the positive side, the new material works well live - particularly memorable is 'Above The Blue', an encore song that is introduced simply, although I guess also metaphorically, as being about a rainbow. Simple in structure, Findlay sings with sincere emotional depth to the accompaniment of Helder and Jennings' keyboard parts. Another set highlight is 'Carpe Diem', which again sees Findlay deliver a profoundly stirring and affectively moving vocal, climaxing with a Floydian pastiche and Josh's Gilmour inspired soloing. Backing vocalist Livvy Sparnenn has her usual 'sing-off' with Josh's guitar licks, although this is now perhaps a little predictable in the band's set, albeit still enjoyable to watch. Overall, I can't help but feel a little distanced from the band's performance this evening as interactions with both the audience and each other is noticeably lacking. Musically, Mostly Autumn are once again flawless, although I have seen them much better.
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