And so we come to the final chapter of November Gig Madness. And this is really the only possible ending.
The first time I travelled to York for the annual Grand Opera House was in 2007, when it was moved to the beginning of the month so that flautist/keyboardist Angie Gordon, who was expecting a baby in December, could make one final appearance with the band before going on maternity leave. This year it returned to the more traditional date of the last weekend in November. And I’d learned my lesson leaving it too late to order a ticket; instead of the restricted view seat I ended up in last year I purchased a ticket the day they went on sale, and scored the second row, just off-centre on Bryan’s side of the stage.
I’m usually one of those curmudgeons that complains that Christmas starts earlier and earlier, but walking through the medieval streets on the way to the gig with all the decorations out in near sub-zero temperatures meant it was starting to feel like Christmas. The famous Shambles rather beats the 60s grot of Crewe shopping centre as the scenic route to a gig.
Mostly Autumn gigs are known for their great atmosphere; this one, with many friends and family of the band takes that to another level. You could taste the anticipation in the hall. The last Mostly Autumn gig was the Cambridge Rock Festival four months ago, Heather Findlay’s last appearance before going on maternity leave. After four months in which many people wondered if she’d want to take a more extended break from the band, tonight’s was to be her first live appearance with the band on returning.
The band hit the ground running with the now-traditional opener of “Fading Colours”, no trace of the rustiness from having off the road for four months. The setlist started out much as the spring tour with ‘Caught in a Fold‘, ‘Flowers for Guns‘ and ‘Unoriginal Sin‘, although they varied things later on. Nice to hear another couple of songs from “Passengers“, ‘First Thought‘, which I’d never heard live before, and the old favourite ‘Answer the Question‘, which hasn’t been played for something like two years. And they debuted two more songs from this years “Glass Shadows“, ‘A Different Sky‘ and ‘Until the Story Ends‘, the latter featuring a guest appearance from Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes.
This was really Heather’s show, as much as Cardiff eighteen months ago, although this one was an altogether more happy occasion. She looked wonderful, and sang like a goddess. The sparse piano ballad ‘Above the Blue‘ was possibly the best version I’ve heard so far, and the epic ‘Carpe Diem‘, also augmented by Troy Donockley’s Uilleann pipes, was utterly spellbinding.
If the streets of York hadn’t started the Christmas season, the encores certainly did, with all the traditional Christmas covers, kicking of with their spine-tingling five-part harmony version of the traditional Carol ‘Silent Night’ with guest appearances from former members Angela Gordon and Chris Johnson.
Altogether a magical evening, and reminds me of just why Mostly Autumn remain my favourite band. And it was nice to meet half the band at the Old White Swan after the gig. I just hope I didn’t give one band member my lurgey; she insisted on giving me a hug before I had the chance to tell her I have a cold.
I’ll probably catch the band at least once more on the December leg of the tour.