Tag Archives: Mostly Autumn

Cloud Atlas to play York in November

Heifi Widdop of  Cloud Atlas at Fibbers, York

Cloud Atlas will be playing a home town headlining gig at The Post Office Social Club in York on Saturday 14th November. The support act will be Chris Helme of Seahorses fame.

This is the day after Mostly Autumn’s showcase gig at The Grand Opera house, which is all the more reason for travelling fans to make a weekend of it.

If you can’t wait until then to see them, they’re also playing an acoustic show supporting the always excellent Jump at the Wesley Centre in Maltby on 25th April, and headline shows in Norwich and Bilston Robin 2 in July and August. Full details of these on the Cloud Atlas gigs page.

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HRH Prog 3

Jessie May Smart of Steeleye Span at HRH Prog 3HRH Prog is now in its third year, and it’s second at Hafan-Y-Mor, the former Butlins holiday camp just outside Pwllheli in north Wales.

Pwllheli is a long way from anywhere, at the far end of a winding single-track railway line, and the train stops many, many times at little request stops where the train might only stop if you know how to pronounce the station. So by the time I finally got there after a whole day’s travelling I missed the opening band. But I did catch most of The Dream Circuit’s set, with a space-jam sound that owed a lot of Ozric Tentacles.

Knifeworld were the most eagerly anticipated band of the Thursday night. They opened with a brand new song which Kavus Torabi dedicated to his great friend, the late Daevid Allen of Gong. With his white and gold Gresch guitar, Torabi looks most un-prog, buy with it’s Zappa-style horn orchestrations, psychedelic soundscapes and layered vocal harmonies the music is as progressive as it gets. There were one or two who didn’t ‘get’ what they do, implying they’re not “proper prog”, but it’s their loss. Knifeworld are the real thing.

Thursday headliners The Skys, hailing from Lithuania had a far more traditional prog sound, but were very good at what they did. They displayed some strong Floydian atmospherics at times, with a harder-rocking edge at others. They had a great keyboard sound with big washes of Hammond, and one guitar solo in particular was brain-melting.
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Mostly Autumn Full 2015 Tour Dates

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at the 2014 Cambridge Rock FestivalMostly Autumn have now announced their tour dates for the remainder of the year, taking in venues across the country over the summer and autumn, culminating in four special dates at the end of the year, extended shows that will include “Dressed in Voices” as well as a revival of the Pink Floyd Revisited set from a decade ago.

These four dates include a return to York Grand Opera House, this time on Friday 13th of November, and a special Christmas show at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on Sunday 13th December.

The latter will be the only Christmas show this year, and features an extended bill running from 4pm to 10pm, with details to be announced. Since it’s difficult to imagine Mostly Autumn playing for six hours there will presumably be other bands on the bill.

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Mostly Autumn announce first live dates for 2015

Some gig announcements from Mostly Autumn.

More dates are to be announced later in the year.

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Best Gigs of 2014

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

Unlike almost everyone else, I didn’t get to see Kate Bush’s already legendary shows at Hammersmith in the summer. But I did get to see plenty of other bands, from festivals to free-entry pub gigs, so many in fact that I lost eventually lost count. I do remember nine in thirteen days in December, after which I collapsed in a heap.

These are ten of the best of the year, listed in chronological order save for the gig of the year. Several of them are from festivals, where I’ve highlighted individual sets rather than the festival as a whole.

The Pineapple Thief, HRH Prog, March

The first day of HRH Prog was somewhat patchy, with rather too many rather one-dimensional acts. The Pineapple Thief were the exception, with a magnificently intense set that stood head and shoulders above anyone else on Friday’s bill, including headliners The Flower Kings.

Riverside, O2 Academy, April

Poland’s finest proved they’re every bit as good live as they are on record, the perfect band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, but with enough of an identity of their own to sound like any kind of pastiche.

Panic Room, Gloucester Guildhall, April

2014 saw Panic Room back firing on all cylinders again after a somewhat shaky 2013, with the new lineup with then-new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan fully bedded it. They kicked off with an impressive performance at HRH Prog in March, and were on consistently good live form thereafter. It’s hard to single out any one show, but this early one in Gloucester was as good as any.

Magenta, Trinity Live, May

Magenta were only added to the bill of the all-day charity gig very late in the day when Christina’s cancer treatment was progressing well enough to allow her to perform. It’s always remarkable how good Magenta are live considering how infrequently they perform; but this time they completely stole the show. And they deserved it.

Jeff Lorber, Swansea Jazz Festival, June

Most of this years gigs have been prog and metal, so the Swansea Jazz Festival was a change of pace. Among others it featured the veteran trumpeter Dick Pierce, the violin-driven gypsy jazz of Sarah Smith, and the jazz-rock of Protect the Beat. But the highlight of the weekend was Friday night’s set of jazz-fusion from pianist Jeff Lorber. The world of prog contains plenty of virtuoso musicians, but jazz can be on another level.

Mostly Autumn, The Box in Crewe, July

Mostly Autumn have bounced back very strongly after a hit-and-miss 2013, touring to promote the best album they’ve made in years and for the first time playing the new album in full on tour. Despite a fluctuating lineup in the early part of the year due some members’ prior commitments, which saw former flautist Angela Gordon standing in for a couple of gigs, they were back to the sort of live form they displayed in 2011 and 2012. An early highlight was their long-overdue return to Crewe in July.

Mr So and So, Resonance, August

Resonance was a strange festival, with an eclectic mix of bands playing across multiple stages, including a small room tucked away at up at the top of the building. One of the bands in that small room, Mr So and So, were an unexpected highlight, a band who have improved immensely over the past couple of years, with Charlotte Evans coming into her own as a singer.

Chantel McGregor, Cambridge Rock Festival, August

The Cambridge Rock Festival was another highlight of the year, with strong sets from Mostly Autumn, Mr So and So, The Windmill, Cloud Atlas and others. One of the highlights was the guitar-shredding set on Friday from Chantel McGregor, who simply owns the main stage at that festival.

Fish, Reading Sub89, December

Fish had planned to tour the UK in May but was forced to cancel due to Guitarist Robin Boult’s injury. The rescheduled shows in December looked in doubt at one point when the man himself went down with viral laryngitis on the continental leg. But in the end all was fine, and the band were on fire, with a completely new setlist compared to last year, with old favourites like “Big Wedge” and “Incubus” as well as the powerful High Wood suite from his newest album played in full.

It’s hard to narrow things down to just ten, so honourable mentions to Touchstone and IOEarth’s Christmas show in Bilston, The Tangent’s mesmerising performance at Celebr8.3 in Islington, Tarja rocking out the O2 Academy, Steve Rothery at Bush Hall, Opeth’s oldies-heavy set at The Roundhouse, and Alestorm’s booze and piracy in Reading.

It’s even harder to pick the best of the lot, but there can only be one, and this came towards the end of the year.

Marillion, The Forum, December

Even after more than 30 years in the business, Marillion never disappoint live, and their sell-out December Christmas shows were no exception. What was surprising was the number of real oldies they haven’t played for years; “Slàinte Mhath”, “Warm Wet Circles/This Time of the Night” and even “Garden Party” from the Fish era, and several song from “Seasons End” including the magnificent title track. It gave the impression of a band comfortable in their own skins and reconciled with their own past in a way they weren’t a few years back.

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A Battleship of Gigs

November and December are always crunch times for gigs, when everyone seems to be on tour at once, and gig-goers talk of bands playing Battleships on their diaries. The beginning of December saw an actual Battleship; four gigs in four days. Since we’re nearly a month after the gigs, what follows aren’t reviews as such, but do give me an excuse to post some photos.

The first of those was The Pineapple Thief at the O2 Academy in London, a good gig even if it didn’t quite reach the mesmerising heights of their performance at HRH Prog back in March.

Chantel McGregor at Bilston Robin 2

Then it was up to Bilston Robin 2 for Chantel McGregor. With her long-awaited second album now recorded and due for release early in the new year, she’s completely revamped her setlist from that of the past couple of years. Gone are the reworkings of blues standards, and her take on Robin Trower’s “Daydream” was the only cover in the set. In their place she played most of the new album, going from hard rock to solo acoustic numbers. This album is going to be well worth the wait.

Richie Richards, Bassist for Chantel McGregor at Bilston Robin 2

Sadly this run of gigs marked the farewell for her long-term bassist Ritchie Richards, a talented musician who always made an excellent foil for Chantel’s guitar playing.

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at Bilston Robin 2 on 6-Dec-2014

Then it was two back-to-back Mostly Autumn Christmas shows, in Manchester and Bilston. With the venue booked solid with panto, there wasn’t the traditional hometown show at York Grand Opera House this year to serve as a gathering of fans, but these two shows made up for it. The set was much the same as earlier in the year, with the concept album “Dressed in Voices” played in full as the second half the the show. This year they’re shaken up the Christmas encores, with Chris de Burgh#’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling” and, of all things, the theme song from Frozen.

The following weekend turned out to be an aircraft carrier…

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2014 Album of the Year

Most regular readers of this blog will probably have guessed by now that this would be the album of the year. In a year with so many great records one has to try to be objective and put personal favouritism aside. But in the end, there can only be one album of the year, and this record does deserve it.  What exactly is it about York that spawns so many great bands?

Mostly Autumn Dressed in Voices

Dressed in VoicesThe last few Mostly Autumn albums have had their moments, and have been enjoyable works, but all of them fell frustratingly short of the records the band seemed capable of making. With “Dressed in Voices” the band have finally created the career-defining masterpiece they’ve always had in them. Lyrically it’s a dark concept album about life, death and the consequences of violence, and musically it’s a distillation of the best elements of their past three or four albums, with the band’s three songwriters all on the same page.

There’s a similar heavy progressive vibe to 2005′s “Storms Over Still Waters”, with the occasional nod to the celtic-folk of their early days. It’s got that big, rich, and many-layered sound that needs a seven-piece band to reproduce live. There are emotive performances from Olivia Sparnenn, who’s grown tremendously as a vocalist over the past few years, plenty of classic Bryan Josh lead guitar, Iain Jennings’ all-enveloping keys providing the perfect instrumental foil, and some appearances of Anne-Marie Helder’s flute. This is the best record they’ve made for many years, and may even be the best of their career.

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2014 – Part Two

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

For those who’s tastes run towards progressive rock and metal, Sunday was always going to be the day to be looked forward to the most. Continue reading

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Mostly Autumn, Bath Komedia

Angela GordonThis 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.

Olivia SparnennThe 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.

Alex Cromarty

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.

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Mostly Autumn return to Crewe

Olivia Sparnenn at The Box in Crewe

Some photos of Mostly Autumn at The Box at Crewe. It’s a long time since Mostly Autumn have played in Crewe. The gigs at the long-closed Limelight Club always had a very special atmosphere, and The Box feels like that venue’s spiritual successor, a proper rock club rather than a nightclub that also hosts live music.

The band were on top form too, with the new album “Dressed in Voices” played in full and coming over powerfully live. The 2014 lineup with Anne-Marie Helder back in the band (for most gigs at least) and Chris Johnson replacing Liam Davison seems to have gelled well, and the band are firing on all cylinders again.

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