On Saturday October 5th, Mostly Autumn returned to Islington Academy, their regular London venue since the closure of the much-loved Astoria.
Mostly Autumn traditionally play a lengthy show, with two sets and an interval. But for selected dates on their Autumn and Winter tour they’ve decided to do something a bit different, playing a shorter and tighter set, with guitarist and vocalist Chantel McGregor as special guest.
Chantel fronts a classic blues-rock power trio. Opening with one of her most hard rocking tracks, “Caught Out”, Chantel played an intense guitar-shredding set, mixing songs from her album “Like No Other” with extended guitar workouts, including her lengthy cover of Robin Trower’s “Daydream”, finally finishing with a very heavy version of the instrumental end section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. With two talented sidesmen her band play an awful lot of notes for three people, and one hour went very, very quickly. She deserves to have won over a lot of new fans with that performance.
Last time I saw Mostly Autumn live back in July they were a little disappointing; while it was still an enjoyable show that impressed those who hadn’t seen them before, they didn’t quite have their usual magic. But tonight was a very different experience. The day before the gig bought the unexpected but very welcome news that Anne-Marie Helder would be performing with the band for the two dates over the weekend.
Maybe it was a large appreciative crowd who had been warmed up and then some by the superb support act. Maybe it was Anne-Marie Helder’s presence on stage that inspired the rest of the band. Maybe it was a bit of both. But whatever it was, the band pulled out all the stops to deliver what had to be their best show this year, possibly one of the best in the three years since Olivia took over as lead singer. The energy in the room was incredible, and there was something special about the on-stage chemistry; everyone, especially Anne-Marie, clearly enjoying every minute.
The set is much the same as they’ve been playing all year, with a greater emphasis on the hard rock side of their music than on their atmospheric epics. Olivia is singing lead a greater proportion of the time, much of it on newer songs written for her voice such as the Nightwish-like “Unquiet Tears” and the emotive closing epic “Questioning Eyes”. They’ve got the pacing right too; a high spot was “Never the Rainbow”, “Deep In Borrowdale” and “Nowhere to Hide” in quick succession raising the energy levels in the second half of the set.
Unlike their last appearance at this venue, rather marred by poor sound, this time a great sound mix meant you could hear every voice and instrument from the seven piece band clearly, Liam Davison’s understated guitar work complimenting Bryan Josh’s always great lead playing, and Anne-Marie’s vocal harmonies a great foil for Olivia. And it’s great to hear her flute lines on songs like “The Dark Before The Dawn”.
This was Mostly Autumn in full flight, a great show even by the standards of their best ones over the past couple of years, made extra special by a support act strong enough to make the whole evening feel close to being a co-headliner.
Mostly Autumn will be playing further shows with Chantel McGregor in December, including their annual home town showcase at the Grand Opera House in York.
Photos © Howard Rankin, used with kind permission