Mostly Autumn

Grand Opera House, York

19 November 2011

I have seen Mostly Autumn live 50 times. Seriously, no kidding, tonight was my 50th Mostly Autumn concert. After so many reviews, it's hard to know what there is left for me to say.

The band has changed over the years. It's not really the same band I fell in love with 12 years ago, and there are elements they have lost from their music which I wish were still there. But one thing they have never lost is the solid emotional core to their music that can still reduce me to tears when I hear it. The band has grown into a group of consummate, polished professionals, but has never lost its heart.

I've seen this band in so many ropey venues, it's always a joy to see them in the Grand Opera House, with its perfect crystal-clear sound, a beautiful light show, and a stage big enough for the band to breathe on. Tonight's gig is sadly under-attended — at least a third of the stalls in the Opera House remain empty — but this doesn't stop Mostly Autumn from delivering 100%, playing two sets of over an hour each and almost thirty minutes of encores. Everybody in the band has his or her moment to shine in the spotlight (Liam's isn't long enough!), and everybody knows when to step back or leave the stage and leave the spotlight to somebody else.

But the "stars" of the show are the songs, glorious, magestic, heartfelt, a body of material that few other bands can match.

Interestingly, the highlights of the show come in the form of the newer material. Particular high spots are Ice and Questioning Eyes in the first set and the stunningly good And When The War Is Over in the second. Maybe it's because these are the songs that most suit this version of the band. Or maybe it's simply because they are the ones which give maximum opportunity for Olivia to show off her remarkable voice.

Olivia has grown so much since I first saw her. Not her voice, which was always world class, but her charisma and stage presence has come on so much since the early days, and she looks so unbelievably happy to be where she is. Which makes me feel bad about making this one criticism, but it has to be said: there is only one proper way to sing Over The Rainbow, and that's not it. I understand why Olivia sings this version, but it's not right. Sorry, but there are some things you shouldn't mess with.

But once again Mostly Autumn showed us why they are still "the best band you've never heard". In fact, they're better than pretty much every band you HAVE heard. Once again they hit that blend of technical perfection and emotional depth that makes their gigs, consistently, the best concerts I ever see.

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