[Back to Index page] Index

Breathing Space

The Post Office Club, York

26 October 2007

It's a year since I saw the first two Breathing Space gigs so I haven't been watching how they've grown as a band. I said a year ago that they were far too good for the cover material they were playing. They needed a bigger repertoire of their own songs to show off their talent... and here they are a year later, launching their first band CD, and taking my advice to heart (!) by playing the entire new album. And... and...

It's a great collection of songs. Even though tonight is the first time I've heard most of them, I can hum all the hooks. That's how memorable they are. And the band really shines in the live performances.

Paul Teasdale, who I've probably overlooked a bit in previous reviews, is really prominent in the new songs. He's the "lead instrument" type of bass player that you can listen to and be entertained regardless of what the rest of the band are doing.

And while I'm on the subject of overlooked band members, Ben Jennings is a lot more noticeable than in the early gigs. His keyboards are clearly distinct from Iain's and it's really obvious that he's an important part of making the sound work.

Together the five instrumentalists (joined occasionally by a guest sax player) are a rock-solid combination. Whenever Olivia leaves the stage, they almost become a different band — an amazing jazz/rock instrumental combination that I could listen to all night...

The instrumental passages are often the most interesting parts of the songs as it's there that the band stretches out in more experimental directions, but the real heart of the band is in the song melodies, and it's there that Olivia shines. She's got a voice that's perfect for that kind of polished, melodic, power-pop hook, and when she really opens up on a chorus her power can knock you off your seat.

Quick set list run down:

The first half of the gig (50 minutes) was a good mix of the best songs from Iain's first album (Forgive or Surrender, Belief, You Still Linger and, er, No Promises I think) a Mostly Autumn song (Hollow, beautifully played) and one cover (Autumn Leaves, one I'm really glad they left in from last year's set).

Then a 20-minute break (and costume change for one member of the band... I'll let you guess which one) followed by a second set (60 minutes) of the entire new album from beginning to end. And not a single bad song in the set.

And an encore of one of my favourite songs of all time, the best of Mr. Jennings considerable catalogue of good songs, a song I never thought I would hear live again... The Gap is Too Wide. They do it very well. No, it can't have the grandeur of the Mostly Autumn performance with the choir and string section, but with busy keyboard parts from both the Jenningses, beautiful acoustic and electric guitars from Mark Rowan (using a strat for the only time in the gig), and Olivia's ever-perfect voice, it sounds as good as I could hope for. Honestly, I couldn't ask for a more perfect end to a great gig.

You can't not like this band's songs. You can't come out of a gig like this without a big smile on your face and singing all the hooks. Iain Jennings has never written a song I didn't like, and on the strength of tonight's gig I have to extend that to include Mark Rowan and Olivia Sparnenn too. The band that I saw with so much potential last year have totally lived up to expectations. Best concert I've ever seen.