Mostly Autumn, The Globe, Cardiff, 14-Nov-2010

Olivia Sparnenn at Cardiff The Point

Mostly Autumn are a band who have undergone a major change in the past year, with the departure of much-loved lead singer Heather Findlay and her replacement by former backing singer Olivia Sparnenn.  The new incarnation had already won over a large proportion of their fanbase when toured earlier in the year playing a set of existing material.  Now, with their new double album “Go Well Diamond Heart” released, they completed their transformation to what is has become a completely new band.  As Rachel Cohen of The Reasoning said on stage two days earlier, one shouldn’t fear change, but embrace the opportunities it offers. And Mostly Autumn have done just that.

This was the first time Mostly Autumn have played in Wales for more than three years, and they were met by an enthusiastic crowd. And the band did not let them down.  This was a powerful, impassioned set by a band who were clearly enjoying every moment on stage. Bryan Josh was on fire on guitar, playing as well as I’ve ever heard him play.  Olivia Sparnenn was on equally fine form vocally, emotive one moment, and soaringly powerful the next. Gavin Griffiths kicked up an absolute storm on drums, giving the set a great energy level, and hats off to Anne-Marie Helder, who as well as singing superb harmony vocals still managed to play keys and even flute on a couple of songs despite still having her right arm in a cast because of broken wrist!

I’ve been critical of Mostly Autumn in the past for being rather conservative with their tour setlists, playing too little recent material in favour of established standards. This time they’ve more or less torn up the old setlist, at least by their standards.; Of the two and a half hour set, more than half came from the new album, almost the whole of the first disk plus half the second bonus disk.  Add to that the fact that they’ve retained “Slow Down” from Bryan Josh’s solo album, and the former Breathing Space epic “Questioning Eyes”, and the oldies were very much in the minority.

Pretty much all of the new material comes over extremely well live, and went down well with an audience the majority of whom were probably hearing these songs for the first time. Songs like opener “Deep in Borrowdale” and “Something Better” rocked hard, “Coming Back to Life” and “Forever Young” soared, and perhaps the high spot of the entire evening was the emotional rendition of “When The War Is Over”, a very appropriate song for Remembrance Sunday.

They finished, as they always do, with “Heroes Never Die”, this time with a completely new instrumental beginning arranged because or the absence of Anne-Marie’s flute at the beginning of the tour.  A superb gig, enchanting new and old fans alike, and well rewarding those who’ve stayed loyal to the new lineup. There are quite a few more shows coming up including the showcase of York Grand Opera House on December 4th.  And I can’t wait for that one.

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5 Responses to Mostly Autumn, The Globe, Cardiff, 14-Nov-2010

  1. Steve says:

    People fear change because it takes them into unknown territory outside of the comfort zone. The change in MA following the departure of Heather is more than just a switching of lead vocalist.

    I’ve now seen the band three times with Livvy singing lead, and I think that Livvy now looks completely at home in her new role. There’s no one better suited to pick up the baton from Heather. Not the biggest audience I’ve seen at an MA gig last Saturday at Esquires, but those who were there created a great atmosphere inside the venue. With so much of the back catalogue now being unable to find a place in the set list, I can see Bryan switching things around from gig to gig.

    I was pleased to hear Slow Down, and Livvy’s vocal part in this song was one of the highlights of the night. And I was completely blown away by Bryan’s intergalactic intro to Heroes. I was not expecting to hear anything like this. All of the new songs sounded great live, and they played all of my favourites from the album.

    Another great MA gig, another two and a half hour set which didn’t finish ’til nearly midnight. Probably my last MA gig of the year, but I’ll be looking out for the Spring 2011 tour dates.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    I think rotating some of the oldies is a good idea – I notice the set at Cardiff wasn’t the same as Wath the previous weekend. “The Last Bright Light” replacing “Nowhere to Hide” was once change.

    Not sure about “Slow Down” staying in the set – was one of the best songs from “Behind These Eyes”, but there are better songs on Disk2 of GWDH that they didn’t play.

    “Questioning Eyes”, on the other hand is great enough to deserve a place in the set – And I think of it as an Olivia Sparnenn song rather than a Breathing Space or Mostly Autumn one.

  3. Steve says:

    I agree about QE remaining in the set list. This closed out set one at Esquires. I remember Livvy saying when she introduced it that it was a very personal song to her. And I can identify with the subject matter. A very similar song to Evergreen in terms of construction and the way it builds. It’s a classic song that I hope remains in the set for a long time to come.

  4. Mike S says:

    Will they ever, ever tour the States??

  5. Tim Hall says:

    Last time they had a US visit (festival appearance at Rosfest), it fell through because of visa problems. They did play a festival near the border in Mexico not long after, but they haven’t visited the US since.