Mostly Autumn

The Sage, Gateshead

16 July 2011

I've said it before but I'm going to say it again: The Sage is my favourite venue in the country. And Hall 2 suited the band perfectly, with a stage big enough to move around on, a good light show, and, most importantly, a crystal-clear sound throughout the concert.

The show lasted well over two hours — I think they were on the stage for close to two and a half altogether. The set was a good mix of about eight new songs and about 12 classics. It opened with Distant Train followed by Answer the Question, which works really well as an opening combination (though I have sneaking suspicion that Olivia stayed backstage too long and missed her cue on Answer the Question).

If I had one complaint it's that Olivia should have been turned up a bit. But when she wants to make herself heard she has no trouble doing so, and that voice, which I can never say enough good things about, produced some of the highlights of the show when she cuts loose on the soaring vocal climaxes of Deep in Borrowdale, Questioning Eyes, and (my favourite) And When the War is Over. She gets better every time I see her. She gets better at the old songs every time I see her too — Caught in a Fold was particularly superb tonight.

The rest of the band was on top form too. Brian forgot the words of Spirit of Autumn Past (how many hundred times has he sung it?) but recovered with good humour — why is it that mistakes like that make a gig better, not worse? — and his vocals throughout the night were some of his best, I think. Liam got a brilliant solo before Spirit of Autumn Past (why didn't he get a round of applause? maybe becuase we weren't sure he had finished.) And special mention for Anne-Marie, whose flute solo in The Last Climb may have been the best I've heard her play. Now you're all going to say "why haven't you mentioned Iain, Andy, or Gavin?", but they are all brilliant, you know that already. Actually I will mention Gavin, because I had been worried that the drums would overpower the sound in the small hall, but they didn't at all — he sounded great.

The gig simply continued the trend of this line-up getting better every time I see them.

Best Concert I have ever seen? Do you need to ask?

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