I worked it out. I had missed going to see Mostly Autumn for one reason or another on six occasions before finally I cracked it and got to see them at the Robin in Bilston on Sunday 14 December. And then just like a bus I came along a second time almost immediately after, going up to the Limelight in Crewe on the Wednesday. I knew some of their work, though not in any great detail, and had encountered half of the band through other interests in Panic Room, Breathing Space and Fish. So after all that I was very much looking forward to this, and I suspect my trip up to Crewe already indicates I was not disappointed.
There was a definite Christmas feeling to both gigs, with the female members of the band chosing to dress in red and black…either that or they must have been horrified to find themselves showing up in similar outfits ! And both venues were pleasantly packed with appreciative audiences – the telling comment at Crewe being that there was not so much chatting this time around…
My ignorance shows through in not knowing the first two songs from the set, but I was immediately taken by them, before being led into some tracks off the excellent new Glass Shadows album, Flowers For Guns and Unoriginal Sin. Then First Thought and Simple Ways (a tale of being out in the country and, as Bryan Josh put it, “sorting out a good lady” – much to the astonishment of his female band members…both times !), before the stunning Evergreen. It may well be from 1999 but it is timeless in its beauty and magnificence. A wonderful version of Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas took us into the interval. They came back with Nowhere To Hide, then A Different Sky from the Glass Shadows album, which Bryan described as having a late 60s California feel, and The Spirit Of Autumn Past brought us to another two new tracks, Tearing At The Faerytale and Above The Blue. Tearing At The Faerytale is the core of the new album and an instant hit with me, and Above The Blue is simply beautiful – Heather Findlay’s glorious vocals backed by lovely keyboards from first Anne-Marie Helder and then Iain Jennings. Pocket Watch and the brilliant Heroes Never Die finished the main set, and I had thoroughly enjoyed it both times – the sound of Heather Findlay’s wonderful vocals backed by two such wonderful voices in their own right as Olivia Sparnenn and Anne-Marie Helder is breathtaking, and Bryan’s vocals are hardly shabby either ! And the musical sound is just immense both through the tracks and in the solos – I was already aware of Iain Jennings ability through Breathing Space, and on the back of these gigs I bought the Bryan Josh solo album, and am very glad that I did. And nothing should detract from the backbeat of the band provided so ably through the very watchable Andy Smith on bass, Henry Bourne on drums and Liam Davison on guitar and hat (more of that later). The gigs were truly enjoyable experiences and the band’s songs sing of better times and of better people, and for me are like comfort music for the soul.
The encore of Carpe Diem then brought us to the really Christmasy part of the show as a raucous version of Fairytale Of New York (together with huge encouragement for audience participation) was followed by an even more raucous version of Merry Xmas Everybody with Liam ‘Noddy’ Davison on vocals and hat. Various Christmas hats were donned by everyone on stage, and a good time was had by all.
It was a pleasure to be able to speak with Bryan Josh and Iain Jennings after the Robin gig, and they are as genial in ‘real life’ as they are up on stage – everything about them is absolutely genuine. So I would repeat a call from Bryan at both gigs – they will be playing the Shepherds Bush Empire in London on 28 February and want as many people as possible to attend, not least because they will be recording a live album and possible dvd on the night. I know that I will not be allowing that date to be the seventh time I miss them, and will be making it at least my third time of experiencing the joy that their performances bring.