Heather Findlay Band

Fibbers, York

18 November 2011

In a 90-minute set (90 minutes? Actually I lost track) the band rattled through 17 songs ranging over Heather's entire career, and give a show with a very different vibe from the last time I saw them. In the summer they were playing a short "festival set" of powerful, in-your-face rock numbers designed to win over new fans. Now, with more time to play, an intimate venue, and an audience of die-hard fans, the band stretches out to showcase more styles and show what top-class musicians they are — and what an astonishing song writer Heather actually is, as her old material is put through a variety of new arrangements and comes out sounding as strong as ever.

Caught in a Fold has Dave Kilminster playing the flute part on guitar, and the first of many short solos througout the set that show off how good he is. Other Mostly Autumn songs include Black Rain, Half a World (one of my personal favourites and criminally neglected in Mostly Autumn sets — its soaring vocal line is up there on a par with Passengers, in fact maybe even better), and Chris Johnson's Blue Light.

Then things get a bit funky as they give surprisingly off-the-wall interpretations of Odin Dragonfly's This Game and Magpie and Mostly Autumn's Unoriginal Sin. I won't try to describe them, I'll just say that they don't sound anything like you expect, and yet they all sound brilliant.

Throughout it all, the band seem to be enjoying themselves, with Heather looking particularly pleased after each song (as she has every right to be). Really, it seems they can do no wrong, it's a perfectly polished performance and every song, new arrangement or old, feels like the highlight of the set. The audience loves every minute.

They play all five songs from Heather's last EP The Phoenix Suite, of course. My favourite song from it, Mona Lisa, is so intense (I absolutely love Chris's guitar sound on it) that I don't think they can top it and I'm sure it's going to be their last song. But no, they have a last ace up their sleeve with a stomping, rocking version of Yellow Time to bring the set to a superb, high-energy, feel-good finish.

But wait, there are encores. But they're a bit unusual as only Chris and Heather return to the stage. Chris sits at the piano and Heather sings... Broken! I've always listed it as her best vocal performance on record, and tonight, with a bare vocal and simple accompaniment, nothing to hide behind, she proves once again that on stage her voice is just as perfect as it always is in the studio.

Broken segues into Bitterness Burnt — still just voice and piano — and then the rest of the band creeps back on for Paper Angels. It's heart-stopping, and the audience is reduced to absolute silence. All we can do is marvel at how good this woman is.

And just when you think you have now heard vocal perfection, she proves you wrong by topping it with the best performance of Shrinking Violet I have ever heard her give.

There are just no words for this...

Simply the most perfect singer I have ever seen.