Last night was the official launch party for the new album Heart Full of Sky, at the Astoria Theatre, London.
It’s been a while since Mostly Autumn played a gig in London; I think the last one was more than a year ago when Iain Jennings was still in the band. This was an important gig in two ways; not only was it the showcase for the new album, but was also the debut of the new lineup of the band, without Liam on the second guitar, and with Gavin Griffiths replacing Andy Jennings on drums. Tonights show also featured special guests Peter Knight (from Steeleye Span) on violin, and Anne Marie Helder on backing vocals, both of whom had made guest appearances on the album.
Support was a short solo set from Anne Marie, just voice and acoustic guitar. I’m not usually a fan of solo singer-songwriters, a genre that seems to consist of people warbling tunelessly about their personal problems. But AMH was something else entirely; some very powerful songs with a lot more energy that you often get from full bands.
Mostly Autumn hit the stage at the ridiculously early time of 6:45 with the now familiar opener “Fading Colours”. Any doubts over how the new lineup might perform were rapidly dispelled; it was one of their strongest performances I’ve ever seen, even though one or two songs sounded a little different without Liam’s guitar. Chris Johnson doubled up on keyboards and guitar, adding that second guitar where it was really needed. The whole band were on top form, Bryan’s guitar playing was as good as ever, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Heather sing as well.
The setlist included the whole of the retail single CD version of the album, interspersed with older favourites such as ‘Carpe Diem’, ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Heroes Never Die’. One unexpected highlight was “The Night Sky”, a seldom-played oldie from the first album, featuring Peter Knight’s violin. The new songs came over very well indeed, with superb versions of the emotionally intense “To Find the Sun” (With Peter Knight again), and the sparse ‘Broken’.
This is the beginning of a new chapter in the band’s history, and a start as good as this bodes very well for the future.
With the early curfew (the venue turns into a gay nightclub at 10pm), everybody decamped to the pub round the corner, where the bar staff were overwhelmed by having to serve an entire Astoria-full of people all at once. There I met up with a lot of familiar faces I’ve seen from gigs at Crewe and Manchester, spoke briefly to some of the band, and drank too much Leffe (You’re not supposed to drink that stuff in pints!).
Roll on the convention in March.