Tag Archives: Mostly Autumn

Rainbow – Genting Arena

The announcement that Ritchie Blackmore was to perform a handful of shows with a new incarnation of Rainbow came as a complete surprise. With the exception of power-metal stalwart Jens Johansson on keys, the band was made up of relative unknowns, including Ronnie Romero on vocals. In recent year Blackmore has devoted his creative energies to the medieval folk-pop of Blackmore’s Night, and it’s been many, many years since he last played a hard rock gig on a major stage. So there was much anticipation and speculation as to what to expect. Would the shows be a triumph, or turn out to be a complete car crash? Enough people were willing to take a risk that the sixteen-thousand capacity Genting Arena in Birmingham sold out within 24 hours of going on general sale.

Opening the show, for one of the biggest gigs of their career, was Mostly Autumn. To be strictly accurate is was four-sevenths of Mostly Autumn; the restricted space available on the stage meant there was only room for a cut-down foursome comprising Bryan Josh, Olivia Sparnenn, Alex Cromarty and Iain Jennings, covering the bass on keys. Bryan told us how he’s been a fan of Blackmore since he was 10, and never expected to be the opening act for Rainbow in an arena.

A fusillade of drums and Bryan’s Blackmore-like spiralling guitar figure of “In for the bite” opened their six-song set, which included the standards “Evergreen” and “Heroes Never Die”, more recent hard rockers “Drops of the Sun” and “Deep in Borrowdale”, and a spine-tingling “Silhouettes of Stolen Ghosts”. Even though the arrangements lost the layers of the full band, the songs chosen still worked remarkably well in cut-down format, and there was plenty of Bryan Josh’s soaring lead guitar. Aside from an unfortunate pause when a string came loose mid-song, it came over well and the band deserve to have won over new fans with that one.

Rainbow began with that familiar opening from the classic 1977 live album; the intro tape of Judy Garland from the Wizard of Oz and Blackmore playing the main theme from “Over the Rainbow”. Then he launched into the intro of “Highway Star” with Ronnie Romero repeating the opening line over the intro before Blackmore hit the opening riff and launched into the song proper.

Over the next two hours it was greatest hits from across the Rainbow and Deep Purple songbook. “Spotlight Kid” and “Mistreated” early in the set didn’t quite catch fire, but from then on things got steadily better as the show went on and Blackmore loosened up. At 71 years of age he doesn’t have the speed of decades past, for example “Catch the Rainbow” had a slower more melodic solo rather than the blur of notes of his 1970s performances. But that distinctive classical phrasing is still there.

Ronnie Romero proved to have a fine voice, and came over best on Ronnie Dio and David Coverdale songs, though his dark take of “Perfect Strangers” impressed a lot, and he succeeded in projecting himself to the crowd as a frontman. Two backing singers including Blackmore’s other half Candace Night filled out the sound.

Once or twice things faltered; in particular the somewhat butchered version of “Since You’ve Been Gone” didn’t quite come off. In contrast, the acoustic version of “Soldier of Fortune” was a delight. The rocked-out version of Beethoven’s ninth, “Difficult to Cure” became a vehicle for solos, first a drum solo that was short enough not to outstay its welcome, then, horror of horrors, a bass solo, and finally an interminable keyboard solo. It actually started out well with jazz flavoured Hammond, but lost its way with an overlong classical style piano section and blasts of every differed keyboard effect from 70s parps to pipe organ. It’s Blackmore the audience paid to see, and this sort of thing should have been left in the 70s where it belonged.

The best came towards the end. After an impressive “Child in Time” with the two backing singers adding another dimension came a truly monstrous take on what has to be the definitive Rainbow song, “Stargazer”. Romero nailed the vocal and Blackmore himself was on fire for the solo. They finished the main set with the early Purple hit “Black Night” tailing off with the audience singing the riff over and over as the band left the stage.

Any worries that Blackmore would throw one his legendary strops and refuse to do an encore proved groundless; they were back with a rendition of “Burn” as monstrous as Stargazer before it. But still they weren’t quite done. Romero led the audience through an a capella first verse of “Smoke on the Water” before Blackmore came in for That Riff after the first chorus.

Despite a slightly shaky start this ended as a triumphal gig; the power and intensity of the last few songs in particular sent the audience away feeling they’d had their money’s worth. Here were songs few thought they’d ever hear played live by anything other than tribute bands a year ago, and for some, Stargazer alone was worth the price of the ticket. These shows were initially going to be one-offs, but Blackmore has since hinted that they may be further shows next year.

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On Springsteen, Mostly Autumn and Panic Room

Good piece by The Guardian’s Michael Hann on the appeal of a Bruce Springsteen show

I can understand people who just don’t like Springsteen. I was well into my 30s before I could even tolerate much of his music, let alone adore it. And for a first-time attender, a Springsteen show can be a little like attending a meeting of some religious sect – intriguing at first, then slightly terrifying as you realise quite how long it’s going to last. But once the rhythms of the night seep into your soul – as you understand how you are going to be swept up, then brought down, then lifted again; as you come to understand your part in the liturgy – it becomes hard to resist.

I’m not a Springsteen fan myself, but that paragraph somehow sums up what’s so great for me about seeing bands like Mostly Autumn and Panic Room live. Some people wonder exactly why I’ll travel considerable distances and stay in sometimes dodgy B&Bs to see a band they’ve never heard of play before a couple of hundred people.

The comparison with religion is spot-on.

There have been times when I’ve seen Mostly Autumn and been on a high for the rest of the week, to the extent that work colleagues have noticed. It’s not quite the same as Springsteen’s universality, of course. Sometimes it’s knowing more about the backstories of deeply personal songs about love, loss and bereavement than has ever been put in the public domain that gives the music such a powerful emotional punch. And the dynamics of a small intimate club gig where you frequently get to meet the band after the show is different from the electric atmosphere of an arena show. But the parallels are still strong.

What about you? Who is your Sprngsteen, or your Mostly Autumn or Panic Room?

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Mostly Autumn, Bilston Robin 2

Angela Gordon

Compared with the extensive touring of past years, Mostly Autumn have scheduled relatively few live appearances for the spring, summer and autumn of 2016, with a greater emphasis on showcase gigs and festivals. They came to the rock Mecca of The Robin 2 in Bilston a week after a high profile show in London, and like at that gig they drew the sort of appreciably sized crowd we’ve come to expect at this venue.

The last couple of years the band have been playing the album “Dressed in Voices” in it’s entirety as one half of the show, and over the course of three successive tours the other half went from an abbreviated greatest hits set, a collection of lesser played rarities, and finally the revival of their “Mostly Floyd” set. With “Dressed in Voices” now laid to rest for the time being at least, what they would play was a mystery for those who had carefully avoided spoilers, though we were told to expect one or two surprises.

They kicked off with the instrumental “Out of the Inn”, which starts off as a flute-driven Celtic-folk jig, led by Angela Gordon and Chris Johnson, with the rest of the band coming to stage one by one as the number builds into a barnstorming hard rocker. An unusual choice as an opener, but like “Distant Train” a couple of years ago, it worked well. After that came a fusillade of drums and Bryan Josh’s Blackmore-like spiralling guitar figure of “In For The Bite” from this year’s entertainingly bonkers Josh & Co album, which saw Olivia Sparnenn make her characteristic dramatic entrance. The huge smile on Bryan Josh’s face set the mood for the next two hours.

Bryan Josh

From then on it was songs from right across their career, played right through rather than taking a mid-set interval. There were standards from the early albums, such as “Answer the Question”, “Spirit of Autumn Past” and “Nowhere to Hide”. There were highlights from their more recent work’ a hard-rocking “Deep in Borrowdale”, “Drops of the Sun”, Olivia’s dramatic Nightwish-like “Wild Eyed Skies”, the drum showcase “Skin on Skin”, and the beautiful balled “Silhouette of Stolen Ghosts” from the bonus disk of “Dressed in Voices”. Chris Johnson sang lead on “Silver Glass”, one of his contributions to the band’s songbook from 2006′s “Heart Full of Sky”. But the highlight has to have been the epic “Mother Nature”, a song not played live for many years. They finished the main set with a powerful rendition of what has long been Olivia’s signature song, “Questioning Eyes”.

With the band still “in the zone” they took advantage of the lack of a strict curfew by throwing in an additional encore, a superb “The Last Climb” with its extended flute solo, before the obligatory “Heroes Never Die”. But even then they weren’t done. Bryan dismissed the closing recorded music and led the band into two more songs, both of them from last year’s Pink Floyd covers set, a monstrously rocking “Run Like Hell” and the guitar wig-out of “Comfortably Numb” with Olivia and Chris Johnson joining forces as the creepy doctor. You were left with the feeling they’d have been happy to play all night.

Olivia Sparnenn

On the evidence of this gig, they’re on top live form this year, playing a good mix of old and new taking in material from across eight of their ten albums. In recent years they’ve been at their best on stage whenever they’ve managed to keep a consistent lineup together for more than a few months. The current incarnation with Angela Gordon and Chris Johnson returned to the fold has been together more than a year now, and it shows. Their next live appearance is the big one, opening for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in front of sixteen thousand people at the sold-out Genting Arena, before gigs in Tavistock, Poole and Cardiff in July.

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Transylvania: The Count Demands It

Announced today by Mostly Autumn records.

Bryan Josh – the heart and guitar of Mostly Autumn andf eaturing Troy Donockley (Nightwish), Anna Phoebe, Alex Cromarty (Mostly Autumn), Olivia Sparnenn-Josh (Mostly Autumn) and Marc Atkinson amongst others, this is the first part of Bryan’s brand new project, taking us from ‘the back lane’ into the heart of Transylvania.

A beautiful vampire, her evil but enigmatic father (The Count) and various other creatures are encountered by the hapless Bryan on his journey.

Difficult to pigeonhole, the first part of the Transylvanian series is an exciting mix of superb rock music with imaginative storytelling. For sale now at Mostly Autumn Records - delivery early April

The first Josh & Co album contained the line “There’s Adolf Hitler, he’s really pissed-off because Julias Caesar won’t give him a sausage”. This one promises to be every bit as silly.

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Mostly Autumn to support Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Nothing on the band’s own website yet, but according to the Genting Arena website, Mostly Autumn will be the support for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in June.

Mostly Autumn have supported Ritchie Blackmore in the past, when Bryan, Heather and Angela played as an acoustic trio supporting Blackmore’s Night on a UK tour. But getting this prestigious arena gig is still a major coup.

Update: Now confirmed by the band:

We are very proud to announce that Mostly Autumn, as a four piece, have been invited and confirmed, to be the support for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on June 25th 2016 at the Birmingham Genting Arena.

Our most sincere and heartfelt thanks go to all in the Ritchie Blackmore camp for this incredible opportunity.  As you may well know Ritchie Blackmore has been a major influence on me ever since I was a child, in fact, one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar in the first place all those years ago.

This will be very special for so many reasons.

Hope to see you there..

Bryan Josh

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Oh Robert…

Robert John Godfrey at HRH Prog 2 in 2015

Robert John Godfrey has been ruffling feathers again. This time, as part of an announcement of his retirement from The Enid, he’s been dismissing Steve Wilson’s music. And parts of the prog interweb have imploded. He has been accused of “talking out of his arse”.

The world of grassroots prog is a small incestuous scene where everyone knows everyone else and the boundaries of artist, critic and fan are sometimes blurred. Over time every band will end up sharing the same festival bill as every other band at some point. It’s the reason we don’t have Oasis vs. Blur style feuds, and there isn’t room for professional gobshites like Noel Gallagher. Even when there is serious bad blood between musicians, they tend to avoid bad-mouthing each other or washing dirty linen in public; they will inevitably have fans in common that they can’t afford to alienate.

Robert John Godfrey is one person who pays no attention to this unwritten rule.

I remember his lofty dismissal of Mostly Autumn during a running order squabble fest over the Prog stage at High Voltage. “Can you imagine them performing with a full choir“, he said. Actually, I can imagine a Mostly Autumn gig backed by a large choir, and the idea has the potential to seriously awesome. I even once suggested that to a member of the band who has a lot of experience singing in choirs, who completely agreed with me.

Mostly Autumn and The Enid have shared the top spots on festival bills on several occasions in recent years, most recently at last year’s HRH Prog in Pwllheli, where both bands delivered superb performances. They are two very different kinds of band, who represent opposing corners of what Progressive Rock means in second decade of the 21st century. Both bands have devoted fanbases, and both bands have their detractors too, but both of them are very good at what they do.

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Mostly Autumn announce tour dates

Olivia Sparnenn

Mostly Autunn have confirmed some live dates over the spring and summer, four British and two Dutch gigs plus the already announced appearance at the Cambridge Rock Festival in August.

The dates as listed on the website are:

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Mostly Autumn and The Windmill for CRF 2016

CRF 2016 Poster (25th Jan)

Mostly Autumn, The Windmill and Pearl Handled Revolver are the latest bands to added to the bill for the 2016 Cambridge Rock Festival, all of whom played the last festival in 2014.

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2015 in Live Music – Ten of the Best

Touchstone Farewell Gig

It’s harder to rank gigs in any kind of order than it is for records, since you can’t relive a one-off experience. These ten are those which have particularly stuck in the mind, and there is probably a bias towards the end of the year since those are freshest in the memory.

The Marillion Convention

There is nothing else quite like the fan conventions Marillion hold every other year. They see the band perform seven hours of music over three nights including a lot of rarely-played material, all before an audience of fanatical hardcore fans. This year’s was no exception, the highlight of which was the double album “Marbles” played in full on the Saturday night.

The Session at The Swansea Jazz Festival

One cannot live on prog alone, so The Swansea Jazz festival is always a good opportunity to explore something outside of the usual comfort zone. Some sets had far too many bass solos, but this New Orleans-based quintet were the undoubted highlight, with a frontline of sax and trumpet. The first solo from trumpeter Steven Lande was like hearing a really good blues or metal guitarist cutting loose.

Ramblin Man Fair

My first open air festival since High Voltage in London a few years back took place in leafy Maidstone. Saturday saw great sets in the sunshine from Touchstone, Blue Öyster Cult and the legendary Camel, the only disappointment being the lacklustre phoned-in set from Dream Theater. But the musical highlight was much of Sunday, with a bill beginning in the rain with Anna Phoebe, Knifeworld (“Excuse me while I towel down my guitar”), The Pineapple Thief and Riverside, and ending in a mesmerising set from headliners Marillion after the clouds cleared and the moon came out.

King Crimson at Hackney Empire

The unexpected emergence of a new incarnation of King Crimson didn’t disappoint in the slightest, and the seven-piece lineup with three drummers went from intense improvised jazz-metal workouts to fresh interpretations of the stately magnificence of their 70s classics. Some too-cool-for-school mainstream critics just didn’t get it at all, but it was their loss; the set included superb performances of some of the greatest music of the 20th Century, and that’s not something you say lightly.

Steven Wilson at The Royal Albert Hall

In terms of profile, Steven Wilson stands head and shoulders above any other contemporary progressive rock act, able to sell out venues that are otherwise the preserve of the 70s legends of the genre. I made the mistake of booking for just one of the two nights rather than both, for the sets were completely different. So I didn’t get to see the bulk of “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” played live, but did see Porcupine Tree classics and an intense “Raider II”. It was still an amazing experience.

Gazpacho & Iamthemorning at Islington Academy

I got wind of this gig via a fan of Iamthemorning who was wondering aloud if headliners Gazpacho were worth seeing live. Both bands turned out to be mesmerising; the way you could have heard a pin drop during the acoustic support act really says it all, and the headliner’s absolute mastery of atmospherics managed to outdo even Marillion. Progressive rock needs more violins.

Gloryhammer at Islington Academy

One support band of 2015 deserve a mention. Scotland’s heroes were special guests to Finnish power-metallers Stratovarious, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a support act so completely outclass the headliners. They has better songs, better stagecraft, and a level of fire & passion that the headliners completely lacked.

Public Image Limited at Reading Sub89

The artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten has still got it, and his singing style is totally unique. The other three quarters of PiL are tremendous musicians; a tight rhythm section and always inventive guitarist in Lu Edmonds meant that you spent as much time listening to the bass grooves or the guitar lines as the vocals. It’s a long way from classic rock, but it’s got more in common with the avant-garde end of progressive rock than you might think.

Touchstone & Magenta at Leamington Assembly

The farewell show for Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham pulled a packed crowd to the magnificent central England venue. Because Kim had suffered a throat infection days before they gig, they added former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay to the band as cover, and the band turned into a kind of heavy metal ABBA. It certainly brought a triumphal close to one chapter in the Touchstone story. And that’s before any mention of special guests Magenta, with a performance strong enough have been in this list in its own right.

Mostly Autumn at Leamington Assembly

Rather than their customary multi-date Christmas tour, Mostly Autumn decided to end 2015 with a single showcase gig in a central venue, what an event it turned out to be. Five hours of music included remarkably varied acoustic set that featured Angela Gordon singing lead at one point, a mesmerising but all-too-short set from violinist Anna Phoebe, what was probably the last full performance of “Dressed in Voices”, a Mostly Floyd set that was far, far better than any sceptics expected, and those traditional Christmas covers. And stunning versions of the rarely-played “The Night Sky” and “The Gap Is Too Wide”.

Those were just some of the many highlights of a great year of live music. Honourable mentions to Panic Room, Karnataka, Chantel McGregor and Luna Rossa, which have featured in this blog a lot, and to New Model Army and Lazuli, both “new” to me in terms of seeing live.

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Mostly Autumn – Leamington Assembly

For their final live appearance of 2015, Mostly Autumn came to The Assembly in Leamington Spa, scene of that emotional farewell to Heather Findlay five and a half years ago. With a four o’clock start they promised a very long evening for what was to be their only Christmas show of the year.

Things began with an extremely varied acoustic set. It started out conventionally enough with unplugged versions of regular live standards “Nowhere to Hide” and “Never the Rainbow”. We had a couple of Olivia Sparnenn vocal showcases in the shape of “Rain Song” and a spine-tingling “Silhouette of Stolen Ghosts”. Far more unexpected was Angela Gordon stepping up to the microphone to sing lead on a spellbinding cover of Christy’s Moore’s “Ride On” which showed a new side of her as a performer. There were also solo performances from Alex Cromarty with a song about superheroes, a piano number by Hannah Hird, and Chris Johnson singing “Gaze”, a song he’s often performed solo but did appear on the bonus disk of “Heart Full of Sky”. To end things off the band regrouped with a very rarely-performed song, “Through the Window”.

Anna Phoebe

Next was an all-too brief set from violinist Anna Phoebe. Seeing her accompanied by a classical pianist rather than an electric rock band it was a quite different experience compared to her festival appearances earlier in the year. As anyone who has seen her will know, her playing was both fiery and lyrical, the piano accompaniment giving it more of a classical feel than the folk and rock flavour of her full band. The only thing wrong was that her set was over far too soon.

The main event of course was Mostly Autumn’s two electric sets, Dressed in Voices and Mostly Floyd. The songs were the same as at the Grand Opera House a few weeks earlier, although this was an even more powerful and intense performance of both. One thing which did become clear was that Mostly Autumn have a better rhythm section than Pink Floyd did and that makes them a rock’n'roll band in a way Pink Floyd never really were. The original version of “Sheep” never grooved quite like their version. And Bryan Josh was very clearly enjoying himself during that Comfortably Numb solo.

The first encore of “The Gap is too Wide” was probably the high point of the entire evening, especially when they hit the choral section. The triple vocals of Olivia Sparnenn, Angela Gordon and Hannah Hird comes close to replicating the full choir and more than do the song justice. They followed that with a really powerful “Questioning Eyes”, which replaced Evergreen (When did Mostly Autumn last play a full set without playing Evergreen?).

After the obligatory “Heroes Never Die” they bought out the Christmas covers; “A Spaceman Came Travelling” with Chris Johnson singing lead, “I Believe in Father Christmas”, and “Fairytale of New York” with Anna Phoebe on violin, which seemed to work far better than a couple of years back. They finished an extended and largely improvised “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” with everyone playing a solo, including an impressive country & western style guitar solo from Chris Johnson. Those final songs had the atmosphere of an end of term party, a contrast to the emotional intensity of the earlier part of the evening. It was past ten o’clock, which meant the audience had been on their feet for six hours. Not that it seemed anything like that long.

Alex Cromary

So ended Mostly Autumn’s 2015. Playing a single Christmas show in a central location rather than a tour of half a dozen dates appeared to have paid off in terms of turnout. In a year when too many gigs by too many bands had depressingly low attendances, it was great to see a big crowd in a larger venue. And the band rose to the occasion with a performance that’s a candidate for gig of 2015 in a year that’s included Steven Wilson and King Crimson.

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