A Year of Mostly Autumn

Since I can’t make it to the Dutch leg of Mostly Autumn’s tour, last night’s gig in Southampton at the end of the UK leg marks the end of my MA year. And what a year it’s been! It started with the shock announcement of Heather Findlay’s departure from the band to strike out on her own as a solo artist, and her replacement with former backing singer and Breathing Space frontwoman Olivia Sparnenn. They followed an emotional farewell gig at Leamington Spa with a spring tour with Olivia singing lead, playing a set made up from of existing material, which drew largely positive reactions.

That tour showed a band in transition. But when they returned to the road in the Autumn following the release of the new album Go Well Diamond Heart, we saw the new-look Mostly Autumn in full flower. I managed to get to see the band four times on the tour, and while all four gigs were good in different ways, I thought The Fleece and Firkin in Bristol was probably the best; a tremendous performance to a very appreciative crowd.

As has already been said, the new material comes over extremely well live; so much so that new songs like “Forever Young” and “When the War is Over” have become highlights of the set. Laying many of the old standards to rest and playing a set of two-thirds new songs was absolutely the right thing for the band to have done. It gives new singer Olivia Sparnenn the chance to shine singing songs written for her voice.

One thing I’ve appreciated is the way they’ve varied the setlist from gig to gig on this tour – While they’ve obviously been playing the new album heavily, they’ve been rotating the remaining oldies quite a bit – so we’ve had one-off appearances of songs like “The Last Bright Light” and “The Last Climb”. It’s also great to see “Questioning Eyes” retained; obviously a very personal song for Olivia, but one that fits very well into Mostly Autumn’s set even though it was originally written for another band.

After the enforced lineup change earlier in the year, I think the current lineup has gelled really well, and I sincerely hope Bryan can keep this incarnation of the band together into the new year.

While Heather departure came as a terrible shock at the time, the way the band have rebounded has been overwhelmingly positive. While Mostly Autumn had been putting in some stunning live performances throughout 2009, captured on that year’s superb pair of live albums, the last couple of studio albums had lacked the spark of their earlier work. Had they continued as before they were in danger of becoming their own tribute band, a fate that’s befallen many acts whose career has spanned more than a decade. Now, with a new lineup, they’re a band with something to prove, and are looking towards the future rather than the past. Who knows where the next few years might take them? And we’ve also got Heather’s solo career to look forward to as well.

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