Mostly Autumn, Bilston Robin 2, 8-Dec-2013

Andy Smith and Olivia Sparnenn

Mostly Autumn came to Bilston Robin 2 on the Christmas leg on their tour.

The set opened with drummer Alex Cromarty alone on stage playing the drum pattern from “Winter Mountain”, then joined by Andy Smith on bass. The rest of the band came on stage one by one until Olivia Sparnenn made her dramatic entrance.

The setlist was much the same as they’ve been playing all year, with songs from the recent “Ghost Moon Orchestra” mixed with older material drawn heavily from the early albums. Olivia can take the older songs and make them hers, but several of her newer songs are now highlights of the set; big epics such as “Unquiet Tears” and “Questioning Eyes” and the delicate ballad “Rain Song”. Another high point was the sequence of rockers, including “Never the Rainbow” and “Deep in Borrowdale” building momentum towards the end of the set. With the absence of Anne-Marie Helder in the band there were occasional moments where the lack of the flute parts were obvious, but for this tour they’ve rested the songs that are heavily dependent on her flute lines. One final highlight had to be Olivia’s spellbinding version of the traditional carol “O Holy Night” during the encores.

The whole set had an energy and passion that hasn’t always been there this year, with everyone on top form for this show. It’s a reminder of just how good this band can be when they’re firing on all cylinders. Bryan soaring overdriven guitar and Iain Jennings’ walls of Hammond organ make a huge sound, and the good sound mix meant that you could hear all seven band members’ contributions clearly.

They ended as they began, with the band leaving one by one leaving just Olivia Sparnenn and backing vocalist Hannah Hird on stage singing the outtro of the final Christmas cover.

Hannah Hird with Mostly AutumnBacking singer Hannah Hird, who has been standing in for Anne-Marie Helder for most of 2013′s live dates, made a strong impression. She’s always had a great voice, but now she’s had time to grow into the role she’s got far more confidence and stage presence than earlier in the year. She now comes over as a part of the band rather than a hired hand, her harmony lines making a great foil for Olivia’s lead.

The only real criticism of this show is that one or two of the traditional Christmas covers at the end are starting to feel very tired. They’ve been a part of the Mostly Autumn Christmas shows for as long as I can remember, but perhaps they ought to cut them down to perhaps two rather than four, and not play the same ones year after year. They’ve wisely dropped Fairytale of New York this time around, but the Slade song is getting really old hat now. Time for a change?

2013 has been a bit of a year of ups and downs for Mostly Autumn. A constantly changing lineup has cost them a bit of momentum, and their gigs have been rather more hit and miss than on the last couple of years. But this show was without doubt one of the better ones, certainly far better than the disappointing show in York the night before. The band are playing their final dates of the year in The Netherlands this weekend before heading into the studio in the new year to begin work on a new album.

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8 Responses to Mostly Autumn, Bilston Robin 2, 8-Dec-2013

  1. Sam Lewis says:

    Ooo a new album? Excellent news!

  2. Tim Hall says:

    It’s going to to be really dark, said Bryan.

  3. Ian Almond says:

    great news on a new album for 2014, let’s hope it carries on the new direction shown on GMO.
    Unable to get to York this year were there any special guests?

  4. Tim Hall says:

    They had a sax player on the final encore at York. Don’t remember the name, though.

  5. Ian Almond says:

    So no appearance from Heather then, it has really gone quiet on that front. Hope she has some gigs planned for 2014 and some new material would be appreciated. Since leaving MA she seems to have suffered from writers block with just that EP.

  6. Tim Hall says:

    I think we’re being spoiled by bands like Mostly Autumn and Panic Room who tour every year and release albums at regular intervals.

    There are plenty of other bands whose activity has always been far more sporadic, sometimes going four or five years between albums.

  7. Weety says:

    MA were ‘ok’ in York. Bryan Josh was awful in my opinion. Turning up pissed made for a shabby performance.; his playing was poor, his ‘singing’ was dire and his between-song abstract slurred babblings about spirituality was bizarre.
    The set lists in recent times tend to stay the same too. I’m frankly falling out of love with MA.
    Normally I would have made the trip to Southampton for their xmas show, but after Saturday in York, I simply couldn’t be bothered.

  8. Tim Hall says:

    They were a *lot* better in Bilston than they were at York. Not sure how many people other than me actually went to both gigs.