This was a rather special gig. When multi-instrumentalist Anne-Marie Helder rejoined the touring band at the beginning of the year the band stated that there were a handful of shows she would not be able to do because of prior commitments. Then a few days before the show the band announced that former member Angela Gordon, who Anne-Marie replaced back in 2008 would be standing in for her for the two shows in Cardiff and Bath.
It was lovely to see Angela on stage with the band again. She just handled just backing vocals and flute, with rhythm guitarist Chris Johnson covering additional keyboard parts on the handful of songs where two keyboard players were needed to avoid holes in the sound. Angela’s distinctive voice gave the harmonies a different feel, something noticeable on “Evergreen”, a song that Olivia Sparnenn has long since taken and made her own.
The setlist was the same as at Crewe a couple of weeks before. The first half was a mix of highlights from recent albums and standards from the early years. The flute showcase “The Last Climb” was naturally a highlight, with a very different solo from the one we’ve been used to. The first set ended with what has long been Olivia’s signature song, “Questioning Eyes”.
For the second half of the show the band played the new album “Dressed in Voices”. It’s one of the most musically ambitious records the band have ever made, the sort of album where the whole is far more than the sum of the parts, and benefits from being performed in its entirety. Which is precisely what they did. As at Crewe the songs come over very powerfully live. The whole thing packed a strong punch, but if I had to pick one standout it would be “Skin on Skin” with Alex Cromarty making his mark with some remarkable percussive pyrotechnics. It’s not often you can say that a drum solo was the high point of a set, and it’s certainly not the sort of thing you would have expected from a band like Mostly Autumn.
This is a band currently at the top of their game, coming back very strongly after last year’s occasional wobbles. Mostly Autumn now play a couple of festival dates before returning for a further series of gigs in the Autumn.