Mostly Autumn

Norwich Arts Centre

5 March 2005

The venue is a converted church — possibly the most unusual concert hall I've ever been in. But though I would expect a church to have good acoustics, the sound mix didn't feel right at all. Individual instruments were sometimes swallowed up by the wall of sound, hiding a lot of subtlety in the songs.

Yes, it was a very powerful show — Heather in particular was belting out songs with amazing intensity, and Andrew's drumming was possibly harder than I've ever seen.

Strange, then, that they chose to open with something as low-key as The Last Climb. Don't get me wrong — I utterly love the song, and I think getting a flute solo in the very first number is a marvellous idea — but it seemed to leave the rest of the audience a bit flat. And the second number, Something in Between, is possibly my least favourite from Passengers (though I do like the new arrangement). And the band is very poorly lit — a problem of the venue layout, I think (though, to balance this, I did have an excellent view of the whole band from where I stood). And adding in the disappointing sound mix... something isn't quite working for me...

The second set opened with Out of the Inn and it's absolutely incredible — they should have started the show with it! And suddenly everything works perfectly, everything clicked into place and then got better and better with each successive song. Just the Divine combination of Which Wood?, Shindig, and Blakey Ridge in the middle of the set made the six-hour trip to Norwich worthwhile, and the emotion in Shrinking Violet (it seems so long since I last heard it) and Heroes Never Die reminded me again why I love this band so much.

A very odd encore — Heather sits it out, because of a throat problem Bryan tells us, but then Angela is also missing and neither appears for the final bow. Very mysterious, and I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with it. But I hope she's ok. Anyway, the end result is a very unique version of Mother Nature, with Bryan working overtime on the vocals (helped a bit by the audience). And I love how they morph the final jam into Echoes — it's so cleverly seamless that I'm sure if you didn't know the songs you would assume it was a single song.

Was it the best concert I've ever seen? At the break, I thought the answer might be "no". But, for the perfect second set, and for the look on the face of another person (who I virtually bullied into listening to Mostly Autumn) at her first gig, and for the way I feel writing this back in my hotel room... yes, it was the best concert I've ever seen.