I’ve been to some funny places for gigs this year. Last time I saw Mermaid Kiss was supporting Panic Room in a village hall in Gloucestershire. This time it was a working mens club in Nottinghamshire, walls covered in posters for dodgy tribute bands.
Seeing the low ceiling I feared the worst for the sound quality, but once Mermaid Kiss took the stage my fears proved unfounded; the sound was pretty-near perfect. They had the same semi-acoustic lineup as at Lydney, acoustic guitar and no drums, which means they can’t play some of the rockier material from the albums, but a lot of the more atmospheric came over well. Much of the set was similar to April’s gig, with several new songs from their as-yet unrecorded next album. High spot was an absolutely mesmerising “Seattle”, sung totally solo by Evelyn Downing.
And then Breathing Space came on and played an absolute blinder, certainly the best headline set I’ve ever seen them play, helped by the same crystal-clear sound. Something like a two-hour set, playing practically all of their superb “Coming Up for Air”, several songs from the first album, and three Iain Jennings-penned Mostly Autumn favourites. I have to say it was strange hearing Breathing Space playing “Distant Train” the night after hearing the Mostlies playing the same song at Bury Met (And I’m not going to get into arguments over which version was the best!). “Hollow” was lovely; Olivia Sparnenn has made that song her own now. So was the encore “The Gap is Too Wide”; in both cases they had to be the best live versions of those songs I’ve heard. Their own songs came over at wonderfully well too; with some interesting takes on arrangements in places, such as John Hart’s wind synth replacing the slide guitar on “Don’t Turn a Blind Eye” and the extended jazzy instrumental section in “Head Above The Water”. It’s difficult to find anything to say about Livvy Sparnenn and Iain Jennings I haven’t said before, they were both on great form. But I do have to say I’m finding myself liking Mark Rowan’s guitar playing more and more. He’s not flash, but his playing is always exactly what the songs require, never playing a note more than is needed, whether it’s the fluid soloing on the title song of “Coming Up for Air” or his really simple but amazingly effective solos on the big soaring ballads.
Two great bands, nearly three hours of great music. It’s a crying shame that they played to such a tiny audience, something like fifty people. Surely this beats watching the Eurovision Song Contest on the telly?