It's like self-inflicted déjà vu when you end up in the same venue around the same time of year watching the same band for the fifth consecutive time. Yes, it's Mostly Autumn's annual stop-off at Lincoln's Drill Hall although the big difference on this occasion, and undoubtedly curiosity appeal for some, is that many, including myself, would be witnessing the band in action for the first time since Heather Findlay's announced departure at the start of 2010 with her final gig taking place only last month. It perhaps came as no surprise when long-serving backing singer Olivia Sparnenn stepped into her shoes to assume lead vocal duties, but the big question remains - how does she fare fronting Mostly Autumn? I'm pleased to report incredibly well indeed. Although Sparnenn and Findlay have disparate vocal styles - the former's range is wider and more 'attacking', lacking the smoother tones of the latter - dare I say this brings a rawer energy to the songs. Her physical presence onstage is also that of a more animated frontwoman, performing with all the confidence as if she's been fronting the band for years. That is not to diss Findlay's performance style, rather Sparnenn has risen to the occasion and seems to revel in her new role. It is slightly worrying during the first couple of songs when her vocals are audibly 'weak' but this transpires to be merely a problem with the mix through the PA - by third song 'Caught in a Fold', the sound engineer evidently becomes wise to this deficiency and raises her level.
On what is the hottest day of the year thus far, and a humid night, Sparnenn comments on the high temperature early on in the set, suggesting it's a shame the roof can't be removed to make it an open air show. While this is obviously not possible, the band do metaphorically take the roof off as they work their way through varied material, new and old, including the airing of a track from Bryan Josh's solo project, Josh & Co. It is, however, a shame that so few are present to witness such a mightily fine performance with the Drill Hall around half full - no doubt a corollary of Lincoln apathy and bad advertising. That said, the modest-sized crowd make their presence heard with boisterous cheers throughout in a collective display of appreciation and love of this unique band. And Mostly Autumn reciprocate with their usual flawless display of accomplished musicianship and array of powerful songs. Josh is on fine form, filling the Drill Hall with the succulent tone of his lead guitar work and authoritative vocals to the accompaniment of the band's other members. Iain Jennings also impresses with his tranquil keyboard sonics, as does the multi-talented Anne-Marie Helder who sporadically wanders out from behind her keyboards to take centre-stage with her flute. The inclusion of perennial fan favourites 'Evergreen' and 'Heroes Never Die' towards the end of the night are perhaps unsurprising and, at the conclusion of the set, band members lineup at the front of the stage to take synchronised bows as Supertramp plays through the PA. Based on their performance tonight I can assuredly say that, post-Heather Findlay, Mostly Autumn remain a potent live experience.
Saturday 22nd May 2010
Drill Hall in Lincoln, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
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